Our press officer at Vale da Pinta brings you all the action from behind the scenes at the Senior Tour Qualifying School Final Stage.
A warm familiarity
So, where were we then?
It seems like barely five minutes since we were last on Portugal’s Algarve but here we are again, seatbelts on, ready for another fix of the annual scramble that is the Senior Tour Qualifying School.
It is the fourth consecutive year that your correspondent has covered the Final Stage here at Vale da Pinta and each year serves it that drama that it always promises. Of course this year we are in a slightly different time slot of January, rather than our traditional November date. Not that it feels much different, such is the all-year-round appeal of golf on the Algarve. We did have a touch of frost on Monday and Tuesday morning, slightly delaying the start times, but aside from that it has been perfect golfing weather so far.
The field this year is also an intriguing mix. There is a strong American contingent, including first round leader Charlie Bolling and Dick Mast, looking to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Tim Thelen who led the qualifiers last time we were here 14 months ago. There are 11 players aged 49 who will become eligible for the Senior Tour at various stages throughout the 2012 campaign. Then there are seasoned campaigners such as Jimmy Heggarty, winner here in 2008, and former Senior Tour champions Delroy Cambridge and Glenn Ralph. For all the players involved, the Qualifying School, by its nature, can be one of the more stressful experiences on Tour. However, for those who progress, it can also be one of the most rewarding.
Robert Rock’s rag-to-riches tale in winning the Abu Dhabi Championship at the weekend captured the imagination of the golfing world. The Senior Tour Qualifying School gives club professionals a similar chance of joining some of the game’s great players on the Senior Tour, such as Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam. One such example is Bolling, who opened with a course record 64 on Monday. Bolling worked for 17 years as a club professional in Long Island, New York, but lost his job just before Christmas. Now he is just 54 holes of steady golf away from playing alongside former Major Champions and Ryder Cup players. Perhaps another Qualifying School fairytale beckons?