At the beginning there were six and hopes were high, at the end there were none and all hopes were dashed. The Final Stage of DP World Tour Q-School was a harsh reality check for the state of Irish professional golf after none of the sextet were able to earn a card for next season.
Q-School is notoriously one of the toughest weeks in golf and Jonathan Caldwell was the only survivor of the 72-hole cut at Infinitum but he eventually fell at the final hurdle after six marathon rounds. Had he finished in the top-25 and secured his card, at the veteran age of 39, it likely would have only papered over the cracks that show something has gone missing in Irish golf.
We are really not bridging the gap from amateur golf to tour golf that well. In 2015 we had the ‘Famous Five’ on the GB&I Walker Cup team, in 2017 Paul McBride was Ireland’s Lone Ranger in LA while 2019, 2021 and 2023 saw Ireland have three, two and four representatives contesting at the pinnacle of amateur golf.
That’s a combined 14 Walker Cup players – Mark Power played twice – but none of these 14 players will have DP World Tour cards now. One player (Caolan Rafferty) remains an amateur while Jack Hume doesn’t play professionally anymore.
Looking at these numbers it’s safe to say something has gone wrong along the way. As it stands, 20-year-old Holywood player Tom McKibbin will be Ireland’s sole regular DP World Tour player while Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry will play intermittently when not on the PGA Tour.
There will likely be scattered invites for the likes of Mark Power, Conor Purcell and John Murphy but the lack of depth behind McIlroy, Lowry and a hopefully soon to be fully fit Seamus Power is worrying.
“I want to be one of the Irish professionals out on tour, the more the better because we need them,” Mark Power told IrishGolfer.ie last month. “There have been a lot of great amateurs coming through but I feel we haven’t had as many professionals kicking on in the last while and look, I would love to be part of that in the future.”
Dublin GAA’s announcement of its intention to seek planning permission for a further three playing pitches and a pavilion at the site of the Spawell facility – where the golf academy will be demolished – on Monday came just hours after Mark Power (23) and Conor O’Rourke (32) agonisingly missed out on the 72-hole cut at Q-School by a shot.
As it happened, five of Ireland’s six competitors missed the cut on Monday while nobody from Ireland earned a DP World Tour card via the Challenge Tour. Conor Purcell narrowly missed out on the top-25 and was the only Irishman to make the Mallorca Grand Final with just three Irish players maintaining full status on Europe’s second-tier for next year (Purcell, Caldwell and Dermot McElroy).
“I know what Mark Power and many others are feeling, thinking ‘what am I going to do now?’ Spawell Golf Academy owner and former DP World Tour winner Peter Lawrie told IrishGolfer.ie earlier this week.
“How many Walker Cup players have we had in recent years and where have they gone on to? We had the five Walker Cup players, we had the four this time around in St Andrews and nothing to show for it.”
Ireland have three players at the DP World Tour Championship while Scotland, another country of proud golfing tradition has four while a further four Scotsmen maintained their full playing privileges for next year.
While nobody from the current crop of Scottish players has reached the heights of a McIlroy, Lowry or Harrington they have a healthy crop of talent playing on the DP World Tour and as a country of comparable size, location and also dedication & commitment to golf they are the easiest barometer of our level of success.
Something in Irish golf is lacking at present hopefully someone has a solution to put in front of those that can help effect a change.