Hugo Leon did not let the disappointment of being the first player to miss out on retaining his European Tour card linger for very long, and is eager to tee it up at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage from November 15-20 at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain.
The Chilean would have retained his European Tour playing privileges for the 2020 season had Steven Brown not won the Portugal Masters to bump him from 115th to 116th in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex, with only the top 115 players earning fully exempt status.
“It was tough, but only for a little bit,” he said. “When I handed in my scorecard at the Portugal Masters, I had shot 68-68 over the weekend and I thought I was in. People were congratulating me, telling me I was in and I was stoked.
“I asked how I was looking, and then I was told that I was the first man out, and just as I was leaving the recording area I watched Steven Brown, who is a great guy, hit that three wood on 12.
“Driving off to Lisbon and finding out I had missed out, it was tough. I’m not going to lie I was gutted. I felt like I did a lot of things very well all year long. Obviously being so close you look back and think ‘if I just did this’, or saved that shot there, but everybody is the same. I played hard all year, and I can hold my head high knowing I gave it everything.”
The 35-year-old, who has a passion for competing in golf tournaments, returns to Qualifying School Final Stage for a third time. Two years ago, he was able to earn a Challenge Tour card after a strong week and last year, he birdied the 108th and final hole of the six round marathon to seal the final European Tour card.
“Coming back and knowing the place, I feel like I don’t need to be running around too much to know what it is,” he said. “I’ve got a feeling for the hole locations and how the week will go. Every time you come back to a place it’s more just corroborating what you had in your head, rather than trying to figure it out from scratch.”
With a track record of success on the two courses where the tournament will be contested, the Lakes Course and the Hills Course, Leon is relishing the opportunity to play an extended tournament, which he believes allows the cream to rise to the top.
“They got rid of all the 90-hole golf tournaments around the world and I still wish they had some of those,” he said. “The more holes the better for a guy that plays well, that’s how I’ve always felt. That’s why Monday qualifiers are so tough.”
While he will be able to garner some starts on the European Tour, Leon will have the same goal as the other 155 players in Final Stage— finishing in the top 25 and earning full playing privileges on the European Tour.
“I’m happy to be here where I can play," he said. “Any time I get a chance to improve where I’m at, I’ll do it.
“It was such a beautiful experience to play on the European Tour and play with a lot of guys that I looked up to growing up and modelled my game after. Overall, there have just been a lot of great things in my life. I’m happy to be here, and happy to be in the position I am. I wish it would have been one better, but it’s still a great thing.”
Over the first four rounds of Final Stage, all competitors will play two rounds on each of the Lakes Course and the Hills Course before a cut will reduce the field to the top 70 players and ties, who will contest the final two rounds on the Lakes Course.
While the top 25 players and ties will receive European Tour playing privileges, the rest of the field who makes the four-round cut will receive full playing rights on the European Challenge Tour next year.
Leon will begin his pursuit of reclaiming a European Tour card tomorrow when he tees off on the Hills Course at 10:30 am local time.