Damian Mooney gave it his all but fell two shots short of the required standard as Staysure Tour Qualifying School Final Stage came to an end in Portugal.
Mooney knew he would have to go low to force his way into the reckoning for one of five cards on offer and six birdies on Thursday was just the tonic if it wasn’t for three bogeys that would ultimately prove his undoing.
In the end the experienced campaigner had to settle for a share of 9th after signing for his best round of the week – a three-under par 69 – for a six-under 72-hole total.
Kilkenny’s Jimmy Bolger also signed off on a positive note – carding a two-under par round of 69 that left him in a share of 22nd at minus-one with Bolger left to rue his opening seven-over par round of 78 that proved too poor a start to overcome.
Michael Long was the only player to card four consecutive sub-70 rounds as he won Final Stage by two shots at Pestana Golf Resort.
The Kiwi was rock solid from the outset and saved his best for last, signing for rounds of 67-68-69-66 to finish on 14 under par in a pressure packed week where five players earned Staysure Tour cards for the 2020 season.
The 51-year old, who has competed in 99 European Tour events in his career, has eight professional victories to his name, his most recent in 2018 on the PGA Tour of Australasia, and he will now look to continue his winning ways in his rookie season against the best senior golfers in Europe.
“I’ve been lucky,” said Long. “I’ve been pretty much exempt on most tours that I’ve played on. I think the last time I had a successful Tour school was in 1992 or 1991, and that was down in Australia. I’ve failed a couple times in Final Stage on the US tour.
“I can’t believe it really. This is completely out of the blue. It’s a lot of really good players out here, and if you can’t smile now, when can you? It’s just nice to come out on top of a top quality field.”
Sharing second place on 12-under par were Scottish amateur Euan McIntosh and Canadian David Morland IV. The two players spent the majority of Final Stage inside the all-important top five and like Long, will now compete in their rookie seasons on the Staysure Tour.
McIntosh will now turn professional, while Morland IV will bring the professional experience he has gained from the PGA Tour as the two players further strengthen the quality of golf in Europe’s senior ranks.
“I play a lot of high-end amateur events with guys that are going to be winning European Tour events, and I’ve been doing that for the last three years,” said McIntosh.
“It’s been a really good grounding, these young guys have been amazing. They’ve pushed me on to get my golf to the level it’s at now. Without their help, and their competitiveness, I wouldn’t be here right now.
“The strange thing is, I’m sad in a way to be leaving the amateur ranks. I’ve got a lot of friends, because I play for Scotland, and now I’m not going to be doing that ever again. It’s great, but there’s a bit of sadness there.”
Andrew Raitt, who competed in 132 European Tour events between 1999 and 2010, finished alone in fourth place on ten under par, sealing his own rookie Staysure Tour season thanks to a final round of four under par 67, which kept him inside the qualification number.
The battle for the fifth and final card required extra holes as Spaniards Carl Suneson, Victor Casado and Englishman Gary Marks were deadlocked on eight under par after 72 holes.
Suneson birdied the first play-off hole, the par four 17th, to seal a return to the Staysure Tour for a third season and is the only Qualifying School graduate who will not be a rookie in 2020.
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