After the conclusion of the 2011 European Senior Tour season, the focus now turns to next month’s Qualifying School, as another crop of hopefuls look to seal their place among some of the game’s great names for the new campaign.
For an 11th consecutive year the Senior Tour Qualifying School returns to Portugal’s Algarve but, for the first time, with a new January slot.
Pestana Golf Resort’s courses, Silves Golf, Gramacho and Vila Sol, will host First Stage on January 26 and 27, before the Final Stage takes place at Pestana’s Vale da Pinta from January 30 to February 2.
Last year 180 players competed across the two stages and a similar number of entrants are expected this year, as they hope to earn a place on the Senior Tour alongside iconic names such as Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam.
The playing opportunities on offer to the prospective graduates were highlighted by the success of American Tim Thelen, winner of the 2011 Senior Tour Qualifying School, who went on to finish 24th on the Order of Merit with earnings of €80,110 from 12 events.
Thelen, who turned 50 in June, launched his Senior Tour career with three consecutive top ten finishes, including third position behind Woosnam on his debut in the Berenberg Bank Masters in Germany then joint runner up in the Van Lanschot Senior Open the following week.
Another qualifying graduate, Angel Fernandez, finished 26th on the Order of Merit and also came close to a maiden Senior Tour victory in June.
The Chilean, who claimed the fifth card at Qualifying School, finished runner up in the Berenberg Bank Masters and then set several records at the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open – including a new Senior Tour record low total for 36 holes of 124 strokes, 16 under par – en route to finishing third.
Australian Graham Banister and Austrian Gordon Manson also performed with distinction after securing the ninth and tenth cards respectively at Qualifying School.
Manson recorded three top ten finishes as he ended the season in 34th place on the Order of Merit, one ahead of Banister, whose best finish was a share of sixth position in the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open.
Entries for the Senior Tour Qualifying School close on December 31 and entry forms can be downloaded on www.europeantour.com, in the Senior Tour Qualifying School section, or by emailing The European Tour’s Entries Department (email@example.com).
The top six players will earn full Senior Tour cards for the 2012 season and those finishing seventh to 14th will secure alternate playing rights.
Previous winners of the Senior Tour Qualifying School include Argentine Horacio Carbonetti (2002), winner of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in 2003 and 2004, and Stewart Ginn (2005), winner of the 2008 Azores Senior Open. American Pete Oakley is another successful product of the Qualifying School system, first winning his card in 2003 and going on to win The Senior Open Championship the following year at Royal Portrush.