Desvonde Botes of South African moved into pole position in his bid to become the first South African winner of the European Tour Qualifying School finals since Retief Goosen in 1992. The 26 year old birdied six of the last ten holes at San Roque for a 67 and a 14 under par total of 274 at the 72-hole cut.
Botes, who leads Belgian teenager Nicolas Colsaerts by three shots after four rounds, heads a field of 80 who will continue the 108-hole marathon over the next two days in the search for the coveted 35 European Tour cards for the 2001 season.
The powerful South African, who usurped Ernie Els as the youngest winner of the South African Amateur title ten years ago, at age 16 years and five months, had shown his ability by playing in all four rounds of the Open Championship at St.Andrews earlier this year.
Botes said: “I think the European Tour is a good place to gain experience and I want to win here and get the No.1 card.”
Colsaerts, who turned professional on his 18th birthday last week, shot a level par 72 at San Roque to lie three shots off the pace with New Zealand’s Elliott Boult, courtesy of a 69, occupying third place on 279, nine under par.
The cut fell on 292, four over par, and produced the traditional stories of hard luck and good fortune. One of the best efforts of the day was conjured up by England’s Simon Dyson, who started his round at seven over par at Sotogrande, but had nine birdies in a round of 65 to make the cut on 291.
He commented: “I went out thinking I might need something like a 66. That is definitely one of the best rounds I’ve shot under pressure, although strangely enough I didn’t feel it. That’s very rare to be in a position where you expect eveything to go close.”
Among the long-serving European Tour players, Malcolm Mackenzie, Mark Mouland, Philip Walton, Russell Claydon, and Steven Richardson all progressed to the latter phase of the competition along with 1998 Qualifying School winner Ross Drummond, at 43 the oldest player through to the last two days.
Richardson produced a superb effort, shooting a four under par 68 at San Roque, to guarantee another 36 holes in which to retain his playing rights for next year.
However there was disappointment for 1992 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, Jim Payne, who bowed out with a nine over par total of 297 along with other past European Tour winners Ove Sellberg, Peter Fowler and Peter Hedblom.