Jonathan Caldwell has claimed the fifth and final Challenge Tour card for next season following a dramatic final day at the HotelPlanner.com PGA EuroPro Tour Sky Sports Tour Championship.
With the first five players in the Order of Merit earning their spot on the PGA’s feeder tour next year, the Clandeboye professional went into the last event occupying fourth position. However with a double prize fund of £100,000 on offer this week, Caldwell’s advantage was a precarious one.
With the likes of Niall Kearney and Dermot McElroy breathing down his neck, the Northern Irishman was under no illusions about the size of the task at hand, and boy did he handle the pressure when he needed to most.
Out in 36 after two birdies were wiped out by a damaging seven at the par-5 4th, Caldwell gathered himself around the turn before a disastrous double bogey six at the 14th threatened to blow the game wide open. Yet Caldwell wasn’t for catching.
If ever you needed to cite an example of bounce back ability, just look to his closing stretch. Three threes followed, two of them birdies, as Caldwell brushed the double aside like a seasoned campaigner to finish on even par, occupying 15th place for the tournament, but most importantly, the precious 5th position in the Race to Amendoeira standings.
An honourable mention must go to Niall Kearney who fought so bravely in his efforts to secure a golden ticket.
The Royal Dublin professional, who needed a top-two finish and results to go his way in order to break into the big time, came up one place shy after a final round 71 took him to five under par, only good enough for a share of 3rd spot.
Still, Kearney can hold his head high and is one of six Irish players heading to stage two Q School in November with his European Tour dreams very much alive.
Indeed joining Kearney at second stage will be Dermot McElroy who came up two and a half grand light of Caldwell in 8th place on the standings. Another who needed a grandstand finish, McElroy gave it a right good lash but his three under par 69 was only good enough for outright 5th at the tournament, agonisingly short of the magic number.
It was a fine effort from both Kearney and McElroy, but the moment belongs to Caldwell who got there the hard way. Sixteen events on the Europro Tour is a slog for any pretender, but the investment will be well worth it as his career progresses to the Challenge Tour next season.
England’s Adam Chapman was the big winner on the day, picking up a cheque for £22,540.00 after winning the tournament by three shots.
It leapfrogged him into third spot in the Order of Merit rankings having earned just over £4,000 prior to the Tour Championship over fifteen events played.
To put that in more context – over Caldwell’s sixteen events played, he earned £22,562.31. Makes you think about the merits of a season long race when a final flurry can give the victor the spoils. I’m no mathematician, but something doesn’t quite add up.