Sam Horsfield claimed an impressive eight-shot victory at Qualifying School Final Stage as 33 players earned European Tour cards on a dramatic sixth and final day at Lumine Golf Club.
The Englishman closed with a staggering eight under par 63, the best round of his professional career and the joint lowest round of the week, to reach 27 under par overall.
On another day of good scoring in Tarragona, all eyes were on the qualifying line, with the top 25 and ties earning European Tour cards.
It proved to fall at 13 under par, though it was a nervous wait for the nine players tied on that mark – it would only have taken one more player to reach 14 under par to move the mark up and knock them all out. Ultimately, 33 players earned European Tour status.
Past European Tour winners Kristoffer Broberg, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Anders Hansen were among the qualifiers while youngsters Jazz Janewattananond, Connor Syme and Jonathan ‘Jigger’ Thomson will embark on rookie years in the Race to Dubai.
James Heath was the first player to confirm his qualification. The Englishman was out in the first group of the day and birdied the ninth hole – his last – to reach 14 under par and prolong his professional career after a tough few years of questioning his future.
“All these experiences add up. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to one day win on the European Tour or the PGA Tour and I can look back on days like today where I came out here and shot 63 in the final round, while having a lead, which is something that you can’t teach and you have to learn by putting yourself in these positions.
“So next time when I have a lead in another tournament I can hopefully reflect on this memory.
“I am not sure I can say I envisaged being here when I first started this journey at First Stage but I feel as though my game has been good for a while and it really came together this week.
“I only missed one green in regulation today and I also managed to hole a lot of putts – which proved to be the difference.”
“It’s been a long week and I’m a little tired but it’s been an interesting day. I’ve been super relaxed all week long but today I could feel that tiredness but I managed to hang in there and I guess experience was a key factor.
“Having Alvaro, my friend, on the bag helped a lot and we did it, so it’s been an amazing week. Believe it or not, I was a little nervous today and it’s good to have those butterflies again because it’s been a long time.
“It’s different to when you’re playing to win a tournament but it was a good thing – I’ve always enjoyed playing under pressure and today was one of those days.
“My only goal now is to win another European Tour event so that I can be one ahead of Alvaro!”
“It is a really cool feeling to get my card back. It was a very tough week and 108 holes is a lot of golf – especially someone like me who hasn’t played a lot of golf recently.
“I was fine at the start of the day but I did feel the pressure towards the end of my round. I couldn’t quite find the rhythm and funny thoughts crept into my mind but I managed to hold it together over the last few holes and the result was good.
“I am a bit older than all these guys so I am not sure what happens next, but I don’t think I’ll be restarting my career again. The plan now is to go home and find out what the plan is!”
“This bloody game, eh! It’s just an emotional rollercoaster. I genuinely wasn’t going to come this week, I entered last minute and gave it one last push and now I’ve got my European Tour card!
“I don’t know if I’m disappointed now that I can’t give up! I’m half-joking, there’s 30 or 40% of me that thinks that, but it’s just this game, and this week – I’m taking a good bit of time off now because I’ve got another baby coming so I need to go and be a dad and a partner.
“Wow I felt pressure on the last putt! In my head I was going ‘just make contact, just make contact!’ because I couldn’t feel my hands. To birdie the last to get in was phenomenal but I just got it done so now it’s time to celebrate, take some time off and just enjoy this.”
Jonathan ‘Jigger’ Thomson
“It’s not really hit home yet. It’s so emotional, it’s been such a long journey for us to get to this point and it’s hard to let it all sink in.
“My dad’s been here with me through it all. It’s been some tough times, but here we are and it’s great. We had a hug and a tear on 18 and I’m looking forward to getting a beer now.
“I’ve come through all three stages – I got in on the mark in First Stage and then a play-off in Second Stage and now I’m a European Tour member, so it’s been a hell of a journey.”
“It’s an amazing day and I’m absolutely delighted to earn full status on the European Tour. It’s been a brilliant week, the last few rounds have been awesome so I’m delighted with it.
“When you think about the fact I was playing Walker Cup two months ago, that is just mental! It’s been an amazing few weeks so I’m absolutely delighted to have the opportunity now to test myself against the best players in the world.”
“I am so happy to have snuck in. I was having a bit of a bad day and was struggling a little bit over the back nine, I made a double-bogey on the 15th and I almost gave up at that point.
“I held it together until the last hole though, and I just thought ‘I can only try my best here’. To see the ball go into the hole after my chip was amazing and it is still going through my mind now – I can’t believe I made an eagle to get in on the mark.
“The European Tour gave a few spots to the Asian Tour for players to come over and play in Final Stage so I have to say a huge thank you to both Tours.”
“I felt pretty good out there, but a lot of the time when I was hitting the ball I wasn’t that great so I need to spend a few months off, working with a doctor on my left knee and my hip.
“I wasn’t hitting the ball that well this week but my short game was really good so I am really happy to have kept my card.
“If I can get can healthy I feel that I can return to the top of the game. There is a lot of good stuff in my game but I am still in a fair bit of pain so it is time to fix it now.”