The regular DP World Tour season has concluded with no regular Irish player maintaining their full playing privileges, meaning the focus on the continent this week – strictly Spain – is who can earn a swift return and who can make the step up.
The Challenge Tour Grand Final takes place in Mallorca this week but twelve Irish players are scattered across Spain as the Second Stage of DP World Tour Q-School takes place.
Niall Kearney and Cormac Sharvin are as Las Colinas looking to earn their way back to Europe’s top-tier after a disappointing season and they are joined by already Challenge Tour bound Dermot McElroy who finds himself in bonus territory and can perhaps let fly with the safety net of a Challenge Tour card.
Ruaidhri McGee narrowly missed out on a place in the Challenge Tour Grand Final which would have granted him a place in the Final Stage of Q-School and he is joined in Desert Springs by Gavin Moynihan, Conor O’Rourke and elite amateur Robert Moran.
Gary Hurley is in the same territory as McElroy having secured his Challenge Tour card via the Alps Tour last month and he tees it up in Emporda with First Stage qualifiers Stuart Grehan and Paul McBride while Conor Purcell arrives having secured Challenge Tour status for next season.
Recent Alps Tour winner Jonathan Yates is a lone ranger in Isla Canela Links having progressed through Stage One in Italy.
The Naas professional who balances a job in McGuirks Golf rose up the tenth in the Alps Tour Order of Merit with that win which granted him limited Challenge Tour status for 2023 and he arrives high on confidence.
“I’ve never had Challenge Tour status before I’ve only played invites so it’s nice to gain status and have that in my back pocket heading to the Second Stage of Q-School,” said Yates.
“My goal is to get to the DP World Tour and as soon as possible. I want to be there and that’s the level I want to compete at right now. I have Q-school and Challenge Tour status that I wish was stronger I want to play every event I can.
“Heading to Q-School I’m going there to try and get through at the end of the day you’re trying to finish inside whatever the number is and then get to work for the Final Stage. I have a lot of confidence I have put in a lot of work over the last three weeks and excited for what’s ahead.”
The K Club’s O’Rourke also came through the First Stage in Italy. The 31-year-old hasn’t played much golf with his last competitive outing coming in the EuroPro Tour Scottish Masters in September.
He has been working extremely hard with his coach David Ruddy who also counts Stuart Grehan in his stable while keeping the eye in at the K Club Winter Series.
DP World Tour Q-School is an opportunity he wants to grasp with both hands.
“I’m really looking forward to Q-School it’s a good opportunity for me I have prepared well and have been doing a lot of good work since Stage One which was five or six weeks ago.
“I’ve done some really good work here in the K Club and I have also been up and down to my coach David Ruddy in Galway and Tipperary and everywhere he is working! I feel like I have done everything I can and I feel ready to go and play.
“There is a nice crew of Irish lads out here this week and it’s a great opportunity for us all and I got out here nice and early since Sunday which has given me a few days to see what Desert Springs is like and to get my head around it.
“I’ll give it my best crack this week I am excited and looking forward to it.”
While other players might have Challenge or Alps Tour status to fall back on next year, Tullamore’s Grehan is most definitely looking for somewhere to play in 2023.
Grehan’s playing future is up in the air after the EuroPro Tour closed its doors last month leaving the 29-year-old turning in all directions looking for guaranteed playing time. He continues his bid for DP World Tour status while he will also try his hand at Asian Tour Q-School.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. It might push me back into Team Ireland I’m not sure but as I said I have Q-School and I have Asian Q-School as well so if I keep doing the same stuff hopefully things will work out for me.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’m not sure exactly what that is going to be but something will come of it. It’s a weird one it’s just done just like that. I have no idea what will happen but we’ll figure it out.
“Hopefully I will get some sort of Category on the Challenge Tour it’s very weak so I am not too sure but maybe a few invites you never know. If I have a good start to the season next year you never know what can happen,” said Grehan.
Castle Amateur Moran breezed through the First Stage in Portugal and he arrives in Desert Springs looking with a sense of freedom. Many would expect the Dubliner to turn professional after a stellar 2022 season that included top-5 finishes at the Lytham and St Andrews Links Trophies and Eisenhower and St Andrews Trophy appearances.
However, the 23-year-old is under no pressure to turn pro straight away instead waiting for the right time. That time could be in two weeks’ time should things go well.
“My goal with golf is to turn professional this year or in a couple of years I’ll see what happens. I’m just here to give it a go. You never know when you are going to play your best golf or when you are playing your best golf. Hopefully the timing is right that I can play somewhere near my best golf.
“I’ve had a decent enough year so why not give it a crack.”
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