As emotions ran high on the sixth and final day of The European Tour’s Qualifying School Final Stage, two of the coolest customers at PGA Catalunya Resort were also two of the youngest – teenager Marcus Kinhult and 22 year old Paul Dunne, who both earned spots on The Race to Dubai for 2016.
Perhaps because they lack the scar tissue of some other Q-School veterans, the young duo, paired together for the final round on the Stadium Course, seemed unaffected by the stress and tension elsewhere on the course as they both signed for level par rounds of 72 to finish on ten under par.
They can now both sign off their final year in amateur golf – Dunne turned professional after a victorious weekend with Great Britain and Ireland at the Walker Cup in September, while Kinhult will join the paid ranks once he leaves Girona – in the best possible style: with European Tour membership.
Dunne announced himself to the golfing world at St Andrews in July when, still an amateur, he led The Open Championship going into the final round, though he conceded that his Qualifying School triumph – coming through all three stages, including prevailing in a six hole play-off in Second Stage – is arguably his greatest achievement to date.
“It means more to me now than St Andrews because I’ve got something out of it,” said the Irishman. “I played better at St Andrews but I was happy with how I grinded my way through this week and stayed patient and kept things together.
“It’s a great step because turning pro straight away, skipping the feeder tours to go straight to the main tour is something I always dreamed of doing and wanted to do, but you never know how long it’s going to take. I’m just happy to do it first time and hopefully never have to come back here!
“The thing that pleased me most for the whole of Q-School was that I didn’t shoot over par once so it was kind of just a steady rise. Each day I wasn’t up at the top of the leaderboard but I was doing what I needed to do to get through, so that was quite pleasing for me.
“It’s been long. I think I’ve only been at home for five days since First Stage with the invites I got, and I went to America to see my coach, so it’s been a lot of travel and a big grind but I’m happy it’s over now and I can relax a little bit.
“I felt quite a lot of pressure today. It was a mental grind all day, it’s hard to know what to tell yourself – to play normal, to just scrape through, to chase birdies or to play really conservative.
“It’s great, ever since I started the year back in February in college, my number one goal for the year was to get through Q-School, so to achieve something I’ve been wanting to do and practising for all year is brilliant.”
It feels unreal, unbelievable - it was a bit of a struggle but I managed to pull it off in the end
Kinhult also caught the eye while still in amateur ranks, leading the Nordea Masters at the halfway point earlier this year, and the Swede believes he is more than ready for life as a professional golfer.
“It feels unreal, unbelievable,” he said. “It’s been a long week, a couple of tough days these last three days and it was a bit of a struggle for me on the course but I managed to pull it off in the end.
“I felt prepared for professional golf already coming into this week but this is a good confirmation of that. My game is good enough to be up there with those bigger names hopefully in the future, that’s what I’m trying to reach of course.
“There were a lot of nerves, especially at the beginning when I made a bad start, three putted holes three and five, but then I managed to make two birdies to make the turn at level par and took advantage of the par fives on the back nine – it was tough but it was pretty solid.
“It’s been an emotional day for my family of course. There are many familiar faces here and relatives and stuff so it’s been great to have them here with me all week, and great support.”