Nathan Kimsey kept his nerve to seal an impressive victory at the Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School having come through First and Second Stage to triumph in Girona as late drama meant 30 players earned Race to Dubai spots for next season.
The Englishman’s two under par round of 70 was enough for a 13 under par total, and he becomes only the second player in history – after Oskar Henningsson in 2008 – to navigate the marathon 252 holes of Q-School and come out on top at PGA Catalunya Resort – a European Tour Destination.
Behind him, late bogeys for Niclas Johansson, Richard McEvoy and Jamie Rutherford brought the qualifying mark down to five under par, meaning Jaco Ahlers, Gary King and Espen Kofstad all also earned European Tour promotions with the top 25 and ties winning cards.
Other notable names graduating included Edoardo Molinari, in a tie for second place on 12 under par, and Eddie Pepperell two shots further back, but the day belonged to Kimsey, who was left slightly shell-shocked by his impressive achievement.
“I literally have no words,” said the 23 year old. “Going out there today I was just trying to keep the nerves down and keep calm, keep making good swings, find greens and make it easy for myself just to stay in the top 25 – I couldn’t have even thought about winning at all.
“Coming down 15 and making birdie was the final point where I thought I was comfortable for making my card, so then I tried to be a bit aggressive coming in and made a birdie on 16, then I knew I just needed to two-putt on the last to win.
“Becoming a European Tour player means everything right now. Having to come through from First Stage after not the best of years and to get a full card, it’s crazy to think I’ve done it.
“It’s tough to do that, coming through the whole thing. Having to play Second Stage and come straight to Final Stage, back-to-back, it’s a tough week this week regardless but to come from the nerves in Second Stage just to be here, you have to try to keep mentally strong and play some good golf.
“The last two days have been up there in terms of how nervous I’ve ever been on a golf course up until this point, so to come through both of them under par for those two rounds is so pleasing and I’ll hopefully draw on that for confidence in the future.
“I’ve got some of my family and friends around so I’m sure we’ll do a little bit of celebrating – they’ve been here all week and it’s been great to have them here supporting me and helping me succeed.”
Earlier in the day, Ricardo Gonzalez – in the first game out – had shot an incredible 64 to set the clubhouse target on 12 under par and become, at 47 years and 24 days, the oldest ever Q-School graduate.
“I feel great because I waited for a year to do this and it’s a lot of pressure,” said the emotional Argentinian afterwards. “When you finish like this, with a 64 in the last round on a difficult course, it’s impossible to feel bad.
“I said to my caddie when we started the round ‘let’s just play like every day, play solid and make putts.’ That happened today. I made a good putt on the 11th, on the 12th, 14th, 15th and when the ball goes in you feel better and relaxed.
“It’s good because for the last three years I’ve come to Q School and it’s given me that motivation. Last year I missed the cut, but I played well. Today I think I’m going to be close to getting my card! It’s one of the best days of the year for me.”
Pepperell retained his European Tour status with a gutsy performance over the six days having finished 113th in the Race to Dubai and the 25 year old was pleased to have rediscovered some form in Girona.
“I played really nice all week, just putted poorly,” he said. “Today I lost a few shots on the back nine and I am just relieved to get in and not do any more damage as it would have been a tough one to take because I played so well for five and a half days.
“Overall I am just really relieved and I am pleased. It is probably the most stressful day I have had on a golf course watching Tom (Lewis) and Richie (McEvoy), who had a bad one but managed to get in, and it is something I do not want to do again.
“I am looking forward to next year and think I have turned a corner with my golf swing which is important. I know I can go close to winning the big events when I play close to the top of my game, and that’s what I have got to do and I will hopefully have another shot at doing that now.
“If I can carry on doing what I have been over the last two months during the next 12 months then I am not worried about myself.”
Y. E. Yang, the first Major winner ever to compete at Q-School, also finished inside the top 25, the Korean’s eight under par total underpinned by a staggering 67 in windy conditions on the third day.