Friday, 19 March 2010
Nick Dougherty continued his impressive golfing year when he won the Stage One Qualifying School tournament at Carden Park in Cheshire.

The 19 year old, who turned professional last month, followed up his excellent second and third round 65s with a closing 69 for an eleven under par total of 269 and a three shot victory over Finland’s Mikko Ilonen.

When still an amateur, Dougherty finished in a tie for 12th place in the Benson and Hedges International Open at The De Vere Belfry and six weeks ago was an integral part of the Great Britain and Ireland team which successfully defended the Walker Cup on American soil for the first time.

Since turning professional, the protégé of Nick Faldo showed his ability with a 37th place finish in the Gleneagles Scottish Professional Championship and a 46th place finish in the BMW International Open in Munich, and continued on his way to full playing privileges on the 2002 European Tour with an excellent showing over the last four days.

Second placed Ilonen also ended with a 69 for an eight under par total of 272 and continued the promise he too showed in the non-paid ranks when he won the Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool last summer.

Welsh amateur Kyron Sullivan claimed third spot on 274 after his closing 72 while Scotland’s David Patrick, a member of the winning Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team at Nairn in 1999, took fourth on 275 following his final 73.

Elsewhere, Australian Adam Crawford looked a class apart as he topped the ranking in Stage One of the Qualifying School on a magnificent day at Five Lakes in Essex.

The 26 year old from Brisbane carded a closing 67 for 276, 12 under par, to finish two strokes ahead of England's Jon Bevan and three clear of Finland's Jani Saari and Roby Paolillo from Italy.

Crawford had six birdies in his 67, coming home in 31 on his first tilt at securing a European Tour card, and looked yet another accomplished performer to come off the Australian production line.

"I'm pleased it's all over," he said . "I didn't know what the standard would be like but I played solid, not fantastic, but good enough. When I got to the turn in one under I felt I needed to step up a gear which I did. It certainly makes the 24 hour flight here worthwhile and the one back home will be even better."

Runner-up Bevan admitted he felt at home at Five Lakes and little wonder, for it was the fourth successive year he'd cleared the first hurdle at the Essex resort, closing with a 68 for 278.

Birmingham-born but Ipswich based Bevan has only once made it to the Finals, three years ago before players had to go through a second stage. But if he can reproduce the form his displayed this week, mostly in difficult conditions, he could well be at San Roque in two months time.

"I just played solid all week," said the man who has topped the East Region Order of Merit this year. "I hit every green coming home and overall carded six birdies."

Further down the leaderboard, Hertfordshire-based Welshman Mark Litton, bidding to get back on Tour after a year away, signed for a best-of-the-day 66 with eight birdies. "There's life in the old dog yet," said the 39 year old.

A total of 25 players qualified for Stage Two on two under par 286 or better, but Simon McCarthy, who had a hole-in-one on his way to a 65 in round three, was not one of them after closing with a 78 for 288.

At the Wynyard Club in County Durham, the week-long success of Scottish players continued on the final day when no less than seven of the top eight spots were occupied by players from north of the border.

Pride of place went to the 1996 Amateur Championship runner-up Roger Beames who carded a last round 68 for a five under par total of 279 and a two shot winning margin.

Fellow countrymen who shared second place on three under par 281 were Mark King, Mark Loftus, John Greaves, Steven O’Hara and Barry Hume, the recently crowned Scottish Amateur champion. Breaking up the tartan contingent was Argentina’s Sebastian Fernandez.

Further down the leaderboard, one of the bravest performances came from England’s Jon Gray, who started the day in a share of 46th place but whose closing 66 for a 287 total, saw him grab one of the last of the 27 qualification places available.

Across the Channel at Golf de Moliets near Biarritz, Spanish golfers were to the fore with three players in the top four as 31 players in total qualified.

Ivo Giner, who played on The European Tour in 1998 and 2000, grabbed a share of first place on 12 under par 276 after a closing 70, while fellow countrymen Victor Casado and Eduardo Fernandez shared third on 277.

Alongside Giner at the head of affairs was Daniel Nunez of Argentina who produced consistently improving rounds throughout the week in France, cards of 70-69-69-68 amounting to his 12 under par tally.

There was more Continental European success at Chart Hills in Kent where first place went to Frenchman David Dupart, who closed with an excellent 67 – the best round of the final day – for an 11 under par total of 277 and a two shot victory.

England’s Carl Richardson, who led going into the final round, took second place on 279 after a final round 71, the same score posted by fellow countryman Ben Willman, who finished in third place on 280.

In total 25 players progressed from Chart Hills to Stage Two of the Qualifying School which will take place at three courses in Northern Spain – Emporda GC, Pals GC and Peralada GC – on November 6-9.

NB – Carden Park details to follow

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