Following the gruelling Staysure Tour Qualifying School last week, we take a look at the five players who progressed from Final Stage and secured their playing privileges on the over 50s circuit for 2020.
The Kiwi topped the leaderboard after four rounds at Final Stage, carding rounds of 67-68-69-66 for a two-shot victory at Pestana Golf Resort. Long will now play in his first Staysure Tour season, one of four rookies to clinch their playing rights at Qualifying School.
The 51-year-old has won on the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Korn Ferry Tour, as well as holding a unique collection of New Zealand titles; New Zealand Under 18s, 21s, 23s and New Zealand Amateur.
His victory last week was his first on European soil and it turned out to be rather unexpected.
“I can’t believe it really,” he said. “It is completely out of the blue. There are a lot of really good players out here, and if you can’t smile now, when can you? It’s just nice to come out on top from a top quality field.
“I’ve been lucky. I’ve been pretty much exempt on most tours that I’ve played on. I think the last time I had a successful Tour school was in 1992 or 1991, and that was down in Australia.”
An impressive amateur, but now a member of the paid ranks as he turned professional after clinching the second card at Qualifying School. The Scotsman won the Scottish Amateur Championship aged 49 in 2018 and will take his experience to the Staysure Tour following his success in the Algarve.
McIntosh was part of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup training squad last year, and even though he did not tee it up against Team USA at Royal Liverpool, the lessons he took from his amateur days will stand him in good stead for 2020.
“I play a lot of high-end amateur events with guys that are going to be winning European Tour events, and I’ve been doing that for the last three years. It’s been a really good grounding,” he said. “They’ve pushed me on to get my golf to the level it’s at now. Without their help, and their competitiveness, I wouldn’t be here right now.
“The strange thing is, I’m sad in a way to be leaving the amateur ranks. I’ve got a lot of friends, because I play for Scotland, and now I’m not going to be doing that ever again. It’s great, but there’s a bit of sadness there.”
David Morland IV
The Canadian has played over 100 events on the PGA Tour since he turned professional in 1991, but he will now apply his trade as a rookie on the Staysure Tour. Morland IV recorded rounds of 66-70-67-69 to share second place with McIntosh and seal his Staysure Tour card for 2020.
He carried his form from First Stage Qualifying at Gramacho where he topped the leaderboard and four under par rounds saw him safely onto the Staysure Tour for his first full season as a senior.
“I’ve played all over the world from Asia, South America, Canada, mostly in the US, but I haven’t played that much in Europe so I’m looking forward to it this year,” he said. “You’re going to have all the top European players that played at the same time frame that I did. The quality of golf is there so I’m just looking forward to playing all over Europe.”
Raitt was the only Englishman to seal one of five cards at Qualifying School, but the former European Tour player did it in style, carding final rounds of 65-67, a total of ten under par for his last 36 holes to claim the fourth card.
The 50-year-old raced up the leaderboard into fourth place and will tee it up as a senior for the first time, ten years since his last appearance on the European Tour.
“I played the European Tour for seven or eight years but struggled a lot with injuries and stuff like that. This is a new lease of life. I’ve been looking forward to it and trying to work towards this,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of help from people at home, the golf club have been brilliant so all the members from St. George’s Hill, thank you very much. It feels good to pay them back and give them something to root for this year.”
The fifth and final Staysure Tour card belongs to Suneson after the Spaniard came through a play-off to claim his senior playing rights for 2020. The six-time Challenge Tour winner has been a regular on the Staysure Tour for the last three years and will make that four in a row thanks to his play-off exploits.
Facing off against Gary Marks of England and compatriot Victor Casado, Suneson birdied the first extra hole to seal the final Qualifying School card, much to his relief.
“To get the fifth card is fantastic. There was pressure, but I did it and I’m happy,” he said. “I wanted to get the play-off finished quickly, and I was able to hit three great shots. I’ve had shoulder problems for the last two and a half years, but I’ve been doing physio and slowly getting things tuned in.”