Our team of press officers at PGA Catalunya Resort take you behind the scenes of the Qualifying School Final Stage…
They are all connected
While the world of professional golf is a big and wide-reaching one, there are always some interesting links between the players when 156 tee it up for the all-important Qualifying School Final Stage and this year is certainly no exception. The wire-to-wire leader thus far this week, Estanislao Goya, is the boyfriend of Ladies European Tour player Carly Booth, who in turn is the sister of another player in the field at the PGA Catalunya Resort, Wallace Booth. Another man with love as well as golf on his mind this week is Frenchman François Calmels, who has been joined at the Northern Spanish venue by another star of the ladies’ game, Jade Schaeffer. Meanwhile, Oscar Floren, who began the fourth day of the six-day marathon in tied 17th place, has some company this week in the shape of his very own brother, Nils. There are also at least two players in the field with a strong bloodline in the game as young Englishman Tom Murray attempts to follow in the footsteps of his father, former European Tour winner and now Senior Tour player Andrew Murray while Agustin Domingo, who returns to Final Stage having earned a European Tour card this time last year, is the nephew of Domingo Hospital, a winner on the Senior Tour.
A slice of Spanish history
The European Tour has landed in Spain this week to the backdrop of what was a huge weekend in the history of the country as a whole and, perhaps more pertinently, the region of Catalunya. A referendum took place in the small area of northern Spain, and the vote in favour of the motion is considered a big step in the direction of full independence from Spain. Many of the 7.5 million inhabitants of Catalunya do not consider themselves Spanish, and even have their own regional dialect. The region is made up of Barcelona, Lleida, Tarragona and Girona, where this week’s Qualifying School Final Stage takes place. The vote takes place during the second day’s play at PGA Catalunya Resort, so whilst many players take to the fairways with dreams of a new life on The European Tour, millions of Catalonians will also be dreaming of a new life in an independent nation.
Smile for the camera
Whilst the action out on the course is undoubtedly of significance this week, perhaps an even more important duty for many of the golfers to perform once they’ve finished their rounds is to have their photos taken for the 2013 media guides. Mustering a smile after a dodgy day on the course can prove problematic for some players, but a far greater issue is asking them to remove their caps and reveal their hat hair. Far be it from us to label some golfers vain, but many of them seem to take longer styling their locks than they do lining up putts!
Tough test just got tougher
It’s traditionally a tough test this week, but for the 156 hopefuls gathered in northern Spain, the challenge got even harder with a number of strategic changes having been made to the Stadium Course. Traditionally the more demanding of the two layouts anyway, the Stadium Course will command the field’s full attention now that significant upgrades have been made to lengthen it and toughen some of its iconic holes, including the third green, the expansive par three 11th hole and the 18th fairway. These changes were undertaken as part of the three-year agreement with The European Tour, which will see the Qualifying School Final Stage remain at PGA Catalunya Resort – recently voted ‘Spain’s Best Venue for Golf Tournaments 2012’ by Deporte & Business – until at least 2014. Speaking personally, it’s always a pleasure to come back…although I’m not sure the players would necessarily agree!
Long list of champions line up at school
In the long and illustrious history of the Qualifying School, perhaps this year’s crop of hopefuls is amongst the strongest ever assembled for the six round shootout. No fewer than 33 European Tour champions are in attendance, with at least eight set to miss out on one of the 25 golden tickets handed out at the end of the week. Paul Broadhurst leads the way with six European Tour titles, closely followed by his fellow former Ryder Cup player Jarmo Sandelin on five. Amongst those with three Tour titles to their name is Stephen Dodd, who won the 2005 Omega Mission Hills World Cup in tandem with Bradley Dredge. Seven years on, the duo find themselves in a fight for survival, having respectively finished 245th (Dodd) and, agonisingly for Dredge, 125th in The Race to Dubai. For many there will be tears and tantrums, for others triumph. Welcome to the school of hard knocks…