Nick Dougherty is hoping to take a step back in time at this week’s Qualifying School Final Stage in a bid to extend his long tenure on The European Tour.
The affable Englishman – whose wife Di, the former Sky Sports presenter, has also made the trip to PGA Catalunya Resort – is making his second appearance at the six-round Final Stage, a decade after a sparkling performance on his debut.
In 2001, the then-19 year old cruised through the Final, finishing third behind Sweden’s Johan Sköld to earn a European Tour card a mere matter of months after joining the professional ranks.
Fast forward ten years, however, and the three-time European Tour champion is back at school with contrasting emotions, following a testing campaign which has yielded just €10,600 in prize money.
But Dougherty is taking a philosophical approach to his week’s work in Girona, northern Spain, where a top 30 finish will secure him a place on The 2012 European Tour International Schedule.
He said: “Last time I was at Tour School it wasn’t stressful at all, and I loved every minute of it – just being there was a bonus for me at that stage in my career. The emotions are obviously a bit different coming back here ten years later, but it’s still only a golf tournament.
“It’s often referred to as the dreaded Tour School, but we’re only here to play golf – it’s like we’re expected to find a cure for cancer this week! But now that I am here, I’m going to do everything I can to make it a successful week. Obviously in an ideal world I would’ve played well enough to have kept my card, but the reality is that I didn’t play anywhere near well enough.”
By his own admission, just one cut all season has had a debilitating effect on Dougherty’s confidence levels, but the likeable Liverpudlian is determined to reverse his recent fortunes through a mixture of hard work, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness.
He said: “Things can turn around quickly in this game. There are still some technical issues I need to address going forward, but all my focus this week has to be on playing the best I possibly can. I’ve really struggled all year to keep the ball in play, but if I can do that this week, then I’ll give myself a good chance.
“Things haven’t gone my way this year and of course it’s been very tough at times, but there’s no point feeling sorry for yourself in this game. You’ve just got to keep plugging away and hoping you turn the corner. If I can play well here this week and build some confidence, it could be the start of good things for me again.”