South Africa’s Tjaart van der Walt struck the opening tee shot from the tenth tee of the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort to officially launch the first morning of the 2012 Qualifying School Final Stage.
It was the ironic hand of fate that dealt the 38 year old one of the inaugural blows of the gruelling qualifying contest after the random draw, as van der Walt was the unlucky man to finish one place outside of those that automatically retained their European Tour cards for the 2013 season, just a miserly €693 behind 119th placed Englishman Richard Bland in this season’s Race to Dubai.
On a bright, sunny morning in northern Spain, with slashes and scraps of feathery white clouds dotting the pastel blue, wintry sky, there was a quiet and calm around the magnificent Girona resort, a mood probably belying the jangling nerves of the 156 competitors that have travelled from all over the world in an attempt to claim a much-coveted place in the top tier of European golf.
Van der Walt selected driver for his tee shot on the 432-yard par four tenth on the Stadium Course – traditionally known as the tougher of the two layouts at PGA Catalunya Resort – as a smooth swing produced a fine drive down the right-hand side of the fairway.
A gentle breeze just toying with the tips of the innumerable pines that line both Stadium and Tour Courses and with the presence, in silhouette, of the imposing Pyrenees mountain range in the distance, you could scarcely wish for a more dramatic setting in which to stage such a thrilling, terrifying spectacle of sport.
The Qualifying School Final is renowned as a golfing endurance race as the field is split over the two immaculate courses at PGA Catalunya Resort over the first four days, playing two rounds on each of the Stadium and Tour courses, before a cut at 70 plus ties precedes 36 nail-biting holes on the Stadium Course over the final two days as players strive for the line.
So, on these spectacular layouts, a marathon six rounds - 108 holes - and at stake, most importantly, for the 156 Q-School gladiators, one of the 25 European Tour cards on offer.
As always, what theatre lies ahead; good luck to those 156 players brave enough to take on a task of such daunting proportion.