One of golf’s toughest tests begins this week with the start of the European Tour Qualifying School as hundreds of golfers across Europe set forth with hopes of turning dreams into reality.
The ultimate prize is Membership of the European Tour, and over the next four weeks more than 700 golfers will tackle the first hurdle over eight venues in seven countries across Europe. Only around a quarter of them will survive the First Qualifying Stage and book their passages through to the Second Stage in Spain, where another examination awaits before the Final Stage unfolds at the PGA Catalunya Resort at the end of November.
The odds are stacked against players progressing through all stages to earn a card, with only six players succeeding last year: Hans Peter Bacher, Wil Besseling, Emiliano Grillo, Adrian Otaegui, Scott Pinckney and Taco Remkes. But those who do earn a coveted card need only look for inspiration from Branden Grace, who has secured three European Tour titles this season after graduating from the School last year.
The process begins in Austria and Scotland this week, with Section A taking place at Golfclub Schloss Ebreichsdorf and The Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course, a new venue for the Qualifying School.
Located in the town of Kelso in Roxburghshire, Scotland, the 7,111 yards, par 72 Championship Course hosted the Scottish Senior Open on the European Senior Tour from 2001-2005. Designed by Dave Thomas, the Championship course was opened in 1997 by Colin Montgomerie and Sir Nick Faldo. Three years later, the venue hosted the Roxburghe Challenge, an exhibition match featuring Paul Lawrie and Sergio Garcia, whose round of 66 remains the course record.
This is the third successive year that Golfclub Schloss Ebreichsdorf, a stunning parkland course south of Vienna, has hosted the First Stage. Indeed, the venue provided the launch pad for Grillo to get his card last year as he made it through the First Stage with a blistering final round of 63 at Ebreichsdorf.
Next week, the First Qualifying Stage continues with Section B at Wychwood Park in England and Golf and Country Club Fleesensee – a European Tour Course – in Germany. Section C travels to France and Italy from September 25-28, with Golf d’Hardelot and Circolo Golf Bogogno providing that test, before the First Qualifying Stage concludes at Ribagolfe in Portugal and Frilford Heath GC in England.
The Second Qualifying Stage takes place across four venues in Spain – Campo de Golf El Saler, Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, El Valle Golf Resort and Lumine Golf & Beach Club – from November 7-10. Approximately 310 players will line up at those four venues, with about 80 progressing through to the Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort – also a European Tour Course - from November 24-29.