Dermot McElroy can look forward to plying his trade on the Challenge Tour next season after securing one of the five cards on offer via the EuroPro Order of Merit.
The Ballymena man finished third in the season-long standings to confirm his promotion to Europe’s second-tier.
McElroy was all but assured of promotion heading into this week’s Matchroom Tour Championship in Lough Erne and he was proud to tick off his season goal after missing out in cruel fashion 12 months ago.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be progressing onto the next stage of my career as that was the main goal this year to finish top five after finishing seventh last year so I’m delighted and looking forward to next year,” said McElroy who finished 25th this week.
“Last year was hard to take. I was going into Slaley Hall thinking I would finish top-5 and I would be on the Challenge Tour but the guys in 7th and 8th finished first and second to push me out so I had a bit more determination to get the job done this year.”
The 29-year-old registered six top-10s in just eleven events including a win at the CPG Classic and he has developed a reputation for shooting low scores with eleven rounds 67 or lower and he feels he is capable of competing at a higher level.
“When you are shooting seven or eight unders on the EuroPro it gives you confidence going into any event if you’re shooting those numbers you can compete with anybody.”
It was of course a poignant and sad day in Lough Erne as the EuroPro Tour closed it’s doors after 20 years of developmental golf and McElroy believes the loss of Europe’s third tier will be critical for young aspiring players from the UK and Ireland.
“The EuroPro has been brilliant for the guys in the UK and developing players who have no status anywhere. For those who have just turned pro it’s a great development tour and the standard has been great. We are going to miss it. I was shocked when they announced it. It’s definitely a sore loss for the guys who live in the UK they will have to find somewhere to play.
“All I can say is thank you to the EuroPro Tour for doing what they did and they made us have a chance at least to qualify for another tour.”
One player whose future is now up in the air is Stuart Grehan after missing out on Challenge Tour promotion.
Grehan finished in a share of 8th place at the final, six shots behind eventual winner James Allan on one-over-par after rounds of 72, 71 and 74.
Needing a top-2 finish to push his way from 7th into the top-5 in the Order of Merit, the Tullamore pro carded sixteen pars and two bogeys to cap off a frustrating week where he lost eleven shots on the greens.
“I played well enough to win I think. This is the worst I ever putted in a tournament I think. But still I’m playing well and have a few opportunities coming up so not the end of the world.
“It’s going where I want it to go just need to blend everything together but yeah playing well so fingers crossed I figure it out in the next week.”
It’s still been a very promising season for the 29-year-old who contemplated packing away the clubs at the start of the year. A win on the EuroPro Tour and progression to Stage Two of DP World Tour Q-School is evidence that the good golf is there – he just doesn’t know where he will be playing in 2023.
“I don’t know. I’ll have to see how things are it might push me back into Team Ireland I’m not sure but as I said Q-School and Asian Tour Q-School so hopefully if I keep doing the same stuff it will work out for me.
“I don’t know what will happen but something will come of it. It’s weird it’s just done just like that but I’m not sure what’s going to happen we’ll see. Hopefully I’ll get some sort of category on Challenge Tour a few invites and if I keep doing what I’m doing you have a good start to the season you never know what could happen.
“I remember at the start of the year I didn’t know if I was going to continue playing to be honest so I’m a little sour this week, played well enough to win but I’ll need a few days to reflect but it’s been a forward step from where I was.”
Meanwhile Galway’s Ronan Mullarney carded a 74 to finish in a share of 13th on two-over while John Ross Galbraith made a remarkable recovery from an opening 81 to card rounds of 69 and 70 for a four-over total.