After a weekend when British golfers won almost everything on offer it was Scotland’s Ross Drummond who finished top of the class at the European Tour Qualifying School Finals with a final round of 72 at San Roque to regain his Tour card.
After a marathon six rounds at both the San Roque Club and Sotogrande in southern Spain a total of 38 players earned the right to play on the European Tour next season. Drummond, the 41-year-old who lost his card last year after 20 years on Tour, finished on seven under par to tie with Sweden’s Henrik Nystrom but claimed top spot courtesy of a better final round.
"It’s probably exceeded my expectations. I came here to get my card back and do as well as I could do and I’m delighted with the way I performed," said Drummond. "It’s been a difficult week for everybody and if you’ve been on the Tour for a long time it’s hard to have to come back. I don’t know what to say except that I’m absolutely delighted."
Nystrom went into the final round with a four-shot cushion but dropped four shots in the first eight holes on his way to a four over par 76. Last year he finished 17th at the Tour school. He said: "I was four strokes ahead going into the final round but didn’t win. I got the second card which is disappointing. First would have been better. But of course I am happy. This week was a great test of patience. You just have to hang in there and if you make a bogey or double bogey you have to keep going. Now I’m going home and putting my clubs away for a while."
A total of 38 players finished on five over par or better. One of the last spots went to Jeremy Robinson when he birdied his last hole, the ninth at San Roque, to finish on 437, five over. Qualifying School is a hard enough test when you are fit and well but Robinson has been struggling with a bad back for four days. Using his three iron as a walking stick and with his caddie picking the ball out of the hole for him and even teeing the ball up for two rounds, the 32-year-old who celebrated the birth of his second son two weeks ago battled through to regain the card he lost in 1995. "Had it been any other tournament I would have pulled out," he said, "But as long as I had a chance I had to keep playing. I just kept the ball straight, probably because I couldn’t hit it hard."
Another player to regain his card was the 1997 Challenge Tour winner Michele Reale after he holed a chip from the front edge of the final green, the par five ninth, for an eagle three to finish on four over par and 27th place.
Richard Boxall birdied two of the last three holes to finish on three over par and gain 24th spot. "The marathon is over," he said. "Never again! I saw on the scoreboard that three over would get the last card but I knew from 16 years experience that the scoring would go up. I knew within myself four over would make it. It was pretty nerve-wracking."
Steven Richardson compared the tension to the Ryder Cup after he shot a final round of 73 to finish on four over par to get his card while American Mac O’Grady managed a final round of 71 to earn the right to play in Europe next year. "The Qualifying School tests you in infinite ways," he said. "It tests patience, skills, emotions and character but doesn’t test your love of the game. We are all here because we love the game and need the game."
Among the players who failed to win a card was Justin Rose, whose final round of 80, eight over par, left him in 73rd place on 14 over par. "If I look at things positively it’s been successful-ish. I was under pressure to make the cut and did but I really struggled today. Yes, I’m upset but I’ll get over it in a day or two."