Thursday, December 15, 2011


Steven O'Hara and Gary Orr finished the race like thoroughbreds to secure their immediate future on  the European Tour next year but for Chris Doak it's back to the Challenge Tour after the six-round golfing marathon they call the European Tour Final Qualifying School ended at PGA Catalunya Golf Resort, Girona in north-east Spain today.
Some  956 players - each paying an entry fee of £1,350 - started out with high hopes in Stage 1. Only 37 players with 108-round totals of seven-under-par 421 or better gained pass marks to play with the elite in Europe next year.
England - who provided the top four finishers in David Dixon (21-under-par 407), Sam Hutsby (408), Andy Sullivan (409) and Richard Bland (410) - had nine card-winners in all, the highest of any country.
South Africa and the Netherlands came next with five apiece, followed by France with 4, and Spain and Sweden with 3.
Motherwell's O'Hara, 31, and Helensburgh's Orr, 44, stood up to the last-day tension in admirable style. O'Hara finished joint fifth on 17-under-par 411 with a closing round of four-under 68.
Orr, on the borderline at joint 29th at the start of the day, might well have asked "What tension?" because he produced his best round of the six days - a seven-under-par 65, the joint best of the last day, for a 15-under total of 413. He rose 21 places for a joint eighth place finish - a great effort which means he will be campaigning on the European Tour for a 20th successive season, bidding to extend his number of victories to three.
The only other player to have a 65 in the final round was the only American to finish in the top 30 and ties - Scott Pinckney, a close friend of Banchory rookie James Byrne from their days at Arizona State University.
O'Hara, in the end, finished only four shots behind tournament winner Dixon with five birdies and only one bogey - at the 18th which he never managed to par. O'Hara earned 5,490 Euros for his T5 finish.
Orr produced his second bogey-free round of the tournament, with birdies at the first, long third, long seventh, short 11th, long 12th, 13th and long 15th, underlining that he held his nerve throughout the last day while others cracked under the strain. Gary's payslip for a T8 finish was 4,315 Euros which might cover his entry fee and expenses with a little left over.
Only Doak of the Scots trio who went the distance felt the pain in Spain. He finished joint 48th even with a four-under-par total of 424. The Greenock man, 34 on December 19 and Scottish pro champion last year, was seven under par after three rounds at PGA Catalunya.
At the halfway point he was on course to make it to the Big League. It was not to be, Doak parred the fourth round and then was three over par for the last 36 holes with scores of 73 and 74. 
Big boys don't cry but Doak's supporters perhaps today did when, starting at the 10th, he took 40 shots to cover his first nine with bogeys at the short 11th and 15th plus a double bogey 6 at the 17th. That was really the end of story.
Another bogey followed at the second before Doak at last recaptured his form of the first half of the tournament, covering his last seven  holes in three under par with birdies at the long third, fourth and long seventh for a two-over 74 and a four-under-par final total of 424 - a score that in some years would have gained pass marks but not this year when the standard at the top of the scoreboard has been the highest on record.
Players who made the 72-hole cut are all eligible for Challenge Tour membership and the odd outing on the European Tour.

“I was eight under starting today but in some ways you are almost better to be in that position because you know you have to shoot a good score.
“I felt I was playing alright so I thought if I could go out and shoot under par and get as low as I could then I would have a chance.
“My golf has actually been pretty decent the last few months. I had struggled a bit when I came back. I had a bit of back trouble at the start of the year again and then when I came back I played poorly for a couple of months. In the last couple of months my back has been good, so I came here not feeling like I was struggling.
“I felt like my game was in good shape so I’m looking forward to next season and Gary Orr pictured above by courtesy of Getty Images (c).      getting some more golf in 
“I got off to a great start and hit it close at the first to make birdie and then the same again at the third, then I was just solid really. I hit the ball really well, I think I only missed one or two greens and one fairway e so I gave myself lots of chances and took most of them and didn’t really put myself under any pressure.”


“I was quite nervous for some reason. I've been playing great. I've been hitting the ball better as the week’s gone on so that gave me good confidence. I missed a couple of short putts today as well. I was a bit edgy on the greens, but apart from that I’m delighted.

“I saw that 20 under was leading and I was 18 under so I tried to hole a long putt on 18 and it went a four feet past and missed the next one, so that was a bit stupid. It didn’t make much difference though so it’s okay.

“It's been a disappointing year for me (on the European Tour). I played really well and the problem was I was last in the putting stats, which is disappointing because I’m hitting the ball well but getting no results. Hopefully I can get it going a bit next year.”

European Tour Press Officer
England’s David Dixon was first past the post at the Qualifying School Final Stage, where 37 players secured their places in The 2012 Race to Dubai.
A closing round of 69 gave Dixon a 21-under-par aggregate total of 407 for the six rounds and a one-shot victory over his compatriot Sam Hutsby, with two more Englishmen, Andy Sullivan and Richard Bland, rounding out the top four on 19 under and 18 under par respectively.
But, as has become traditional, it was further down the leaderboard that the drama really unfolded, none more so than when American Scott Pinckney, who started the day in a tie for 66th place on one under par, fired a joint best-of-the-day round of 65 to take the 24th card available.
The magic number was seven under par, a mark achieved in dramatic fashion by England’s Jamie Elson after he holed a huge birdie putt on the ninth hole – his last – of the stunning Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort, in Girona.
Similarly, Spaniard Agustin Domingo, whose uncle is Senior Tour champion Domingo Hospital, picked up four shots in his final five holes to claim one of the golden tickets on offer.
There was also delight for the Dutch, with The Netherlands achieving a clean sweep after all five of their players who made the cut – Wil Besseling, Reinier Saxton (both eight under par), Maarten Lafeber, Taco Remkes, and Tim Sluiter (all seven under par) – finished inside the all-important top 30.
They will now take their places on The 2012 European Tour International Schedule alongside Dixon, who is relishing the chance to add to his solitary victory at the 2008 Saint-Omer Open.
He said: “It has been a very up and down day again. There were some highs and lows, but I’m really chuffed to come out on top. I hit some good shots and bad shots, and the back nine was a bit of a rollercoaster, but that’s the way it goes.
“My caddie and I talked last night and decided the attitude had to be: ‘let’s go out and win it’. We thought that would take my mind off whatever else was going on. I had a perfect start, but then hit a couple of loose ones towards the end of the front nine which caused a bit of a scare. Then I hit some great shots but one went in the water, and in the end I was happy to hold on. I holed some really good putts towards the end and got the job done.
“It’s been a very up and down year and it’s been a bit of a nightmare on and off the course, but this is an awesome way to finish and I can’t wait for next year now. The goal now has to be to try to win again. I’ve just got to go out there and do the best I can and try to get another title under my belt – that would be very nice.”
Dixon earned 16,000 Euros for his win. Hutsby received 11,500 Euros for finishing second at the Final Stage for the second time in three visits to the Qualifying School, but the 23 year old is confident of retaining his playing privileges next term after learning some valuable lessons from his debut campaign on The European Tour in 2010.
He said: “It definitely feels better than the last time I got my card, and I’ve learned a lot from when I turned pro. I changed a few things that probably weren’t for the best, but just to have a shot back on The European Tour and show what I can do is pretty exciting.
“I think I’m a much stronger person than I was last time I was on Tour, so I can’t wait for the season to start. Some of the golf I played this week gives me a lot of confidence for the future. I got myself into contention a couple of times during my first year on Tour and wasn’t able to finish it off, but now I know that if I play as well as I can, I can go out there and chase down my first win.
“The main goal is to secure my card again, but hopefully I can put myself into contention again. Just being at the top of the leaderboard was an awesome feeling, I had a few butterflies in the stomach. It’s nice to be out there chasing a win, and I want to get that feeling back again as soon as possible.”
Hutsby ultimately edged his private duel with fellow former Walker Cup player Andy Sullivan, with whom he shares a management company. Sullivan earned 9,000 Euros.
But the 25 year old from Birmingham was nonetheless delighted to have earned elevation to the top tier of European golf just three months after joining the professional ranks.
He said: “It’s just a relief to be finished. It was a bit weird out there today, because I wasn’t sure whether to go for it or to hold back and play safe.
“But I got towards the end and saw the leaders weren’t really pulling away, so I thought I’d have a go for it. Unfortunately it didn’t quite happen, but it’s a great week to get through and I’m really excited about next year now.
“I was a bit nervous this morning, if I’m honest. I felt the butterflies. But I also felt ready to go, and I really enjoyed it. It’s been a good year, and this really tops it off. It’s great to come through it at the first time of asking, so I couldn’t be happier.”
A total of 957 players took part in the Qualifying School, with six players successfully coming through all three Stages, namely: Hans Peter Bacher, Besseling, Emiliano Grillo, Adrian Otaegui, Pinckney and Remkes. Of the qualifiers, 17 will be making their debuts on The European Tour next year, with Spaniard Adrian Otaegui, last year's British boys champion, the youngest rookie at 19 years and 24 days old.

Par 428 (4x72, 2x70)
407 D Dixon (Eng) 74 65 63 69 67 69 (pictured right by courtesy of Getty Images(c)
408 S Hutsby (Eng) 60 69 68 71 72 68;
409 A Sullivan (Eng) 65 66 67 72 71 68
410 R Bland (Eng) 67 72 65 68 69 69
411 S O'Hara (Sco) 73 67 65 68 70 68; J Garcia (Esp) 71 64 66 73 68 69
412 K Borsheim (Nor) 66 71 69 68 68 70
413 G Orr (Sco) 68 69 69 69 73 65; E Grillo (Arg) 73 68 70 68 65 69
414 G Cambis (Fra) 66 69 68 69 70 72; B Grace (RSA) 68 68 65 70 70 73
415 J Lagergren (Swe) 66 71 67 71 71 69; T Nørret (Den) 71 67 62 74 70 71
416 M Nixon (Eng) 68 69 67 72 71 69; B Ritthammer (Ger) 65 71 68 68 67 77
417 W Abery (RSA) 69 65 67 75 73 68; L Kennedy (Eng) 68 66 70 69 74 70; D Fichardt (RSA) 66 73 66 68 73 71; A Bernadet (Fra) 68 69 69 69 67 75
418 A Domingo (Esp) 71 67 67 74 72 67; M Lundberg (Swe) 70 68 66 73 71 70; J Guerrier (Fra) 68 66 71 73 69 71
419 A Otaegui (Esp) 68 69 69 66 75 72
420 S Pinckney (USA) 66 73 70 71 75 65; A Haindl (RSA) 71 67 70 70 75 67; W Besseling (Ned) 74 63 69 72 72 70; M Southgate (Eng) 70 68 71 71 68 72; P Gustafsson (Swe) 70 63 66 75 73 73; R Saxton (Ned) 70 66 65 78 66 75;
421 T Remkes (Ned) 73 69 72 65 73 69; H Bacher (Aut) 71 68 70 70 72 70; J Elson (Eng) 74 67 74 63 73 70; T Van Der Walt (RSA) 69 74 72 64 71 71; T Sluiter (Ned) 63 75 68 70 72 73; A Marshall (Eng) 68 71 68 69 70 75; M Lafeber (Ned) 69 67 69 70 71 75; V Riu (Fra) 67 69 66 69 75 75

422 S Buhl (Ger) 68 72 66 74 73 69; J Hugo (RSA) 65 71 70 69 74 73; D McKenzie (Aus) 69 64 68 71 75 75
423 B Barham (Eng) 65 70 66 73 79 70; R Quiros (Esp) 65 69 72 74 71 72; S Benson (Eng) 72 71 70 66 71 73; A Parr (Can) 72 66 67 72 73 73; H Soon-Sang (SKor) 68 72 65 71 74 73; E Kofstad (Nor) 66 68 70 72 73 74; J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 71 63 72 72 68 77
424 R Dinwiddie (Eng) 67 71 67 75 73 71; P Dwyer (Eng) 67 69 68 72 77 71; C Doak (Sco) 71 68 66 72 73 74; J Gibb (Eng) 69 68 67 69 77 74; A Ahokas (Fin) 74 66 64 72 70 78
425 M Madsen (Den) 71 71 71 67 74 71; A Tampion (Aus) 65 73 68 70 76 73; J Hansen (Den) 67 67 71 73 73 74; C Brazillier (Fra) 65 74 67 73 69 77; M Carlsson (Swe) 66 70 66 75 71 77
426 J Walters (RSA) 73 70 70 66 73 74; A Snobeck (Fra) 67 72 66 72 74 75
427 D Vancsik (Arg) 68 68 69 73 78 71; J Wahlqvist (Swe) 71 69 68 71 73 75; B Parker (Eng) 69 67 70 72 74 75
428 S Jeppesen (Swe) 73 70 70 67 75 73; S Kim (SKor) 68 71 68 73 73 75; A Tadini (Ita) 69 70 70 69 71 79; A Byeong-Hun (SKor) 70 70 65 72 72 79;
429 B Chapellan (Fra) 70 69 69 72 74 75
432 F McGuirk (Eng) 76 69 68 66 78 75
433 M Tullo (Chi) 73 69 72 66 77 76
434 M Haastrup (Den) 74 67 72 64 77 80





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