By Steve Todd, europeantour.com
The annual Qualifying School marathon, one of golf’s toughest endurance tests, gets underway this week, as the battle to earn a coveted place on The 2014 Race to Dubai begins.
More than 800 golfers hoping to fulfil their dreams of playing on The European Tour will take part in the demanding elimination process, with First Stage taking place over the next four weeks across eight different venues.
It all begins in Austria and Scotland this week, with 95 players teeing it up at Golfclub Schloss Ebreichsdorf and 75 at The Roxburghe Hotel & Golf Course for First Qualifying Stage Section A.
The 170 players will all be hoping to progress through to Second Stage, which takes place at the start of November.
After Section A, Wychwood Park in England and Golf & Country Club Fleesensee in Germany, a European Tour Destination, are next up for First Stage from September 17-20, before Circolo Golf Bogogno in Italy and Ribagolfe in Portugal take on the honour from September 24-27.
Finally, Frilford Heath Golf Club in England, and French venue Golf d'Hardelot will host the last groups of hopefuls from October 1-4.
The line-up of venues is the same as in 2012, with all roads eventually leading to PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain, which will once again host the Qualifying School Final Stage, from November 10-15.
This year’s Qualifying School has attracted noticeable rise in American entrants, all hoping to follow in the footsteps of European Tour winner Peter Uihlein and current Challenge Tour Number One Brooks Koepka, a top ten finisher in last week’s Omega European Masters, who have both opted to begin their professional careers this side of the Atlantic.
More than 80 Americans have entered First Stage this year, compared to 42 in each of the past two seasons.
Twelve of that group will get their campaign underway this week, with four Americans at Golfclub Schloss Ebreichsdorf and eight at The Roxburghe Hotel & Golf Course.