By Brian Keogh
Douglas man Peter O’Keeffe can pull off one of the most ironic success stories of the season in the dreaded European Tour Qualifying School Finals at San Roque.
The six-round scramble for European Tour cards gets underway on the Old and New Courses today and if O’Keeffe can finish in the top 30 and ties, he will have made a mockery of his non-selection for September’s Home International side.
A graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, the strapping 6’ 5” Corkman was bitterly disappointed not to make his Senior debut at County Louth after winning five points out of six in Munster’s Interprovincial championship win at the Baltray venue in August.
But as he joins fellow tour school hopefuls Stephen Browne, Colm Moriarty, Damian Mooney and Michael McGeady in the professional ranks in Spain today, he’s glad he never got the call-up.
“In hindsight it was a blessing in disguise because I would have missed the first stage of the Qualifying School at St Annes,” said O’Keeffe, who celebrates his 26th birthday tomorrow (Friday).
"I was available for Ireland right up until the last minute but the call never came. Now I'm just delighted that it didn't come because I wouldn’t be here. Once I got through Stage Two I decided to turn pro."
O'Keeffe believes six rounds of par golf will be enough to earn his Tour card but like the other Irish aspirants in the 156-man field, his first objective is to make the four-round cut for the top 70 and ties.
By making it through the first two stages of the School, he is already guaranteed starts on the Challenge Tour next season but progression to the last two rounds on Monday and Tuesday next would allow him to play every event on the second tier tour next season.
No fewer than 29 European Tour winners are in the field, including former Ryder Cup players Andrew Coltart and Joakim Haeggman and Irish Open champions Patrik Sjoland and David Carter.
Irish tee-times (Today/Friday)
New Course/Old Course
09.40 Gary Clark (Eng), Andrew Oldcorn (Sco), DAMIAN MOONEY (NIr);
09.50 Miguel Rodriguez (Arg), STEPHEN BROWNE (IRL), Ben Mason (Eng).
Old Course/New Course
09.50 COLM MORIARTY (IRL), Steven O'Hara (Sco), Richie Ramsay (Sco);
10.20 (10th tee) MICHAEL MCGEADY (IRL), Adam Bland (Aus), Graham Fox (Sco);
10.50 PETER O'KEEFFE (IRL), Thomas Aiken (RSA), Juan Abbate (Arg).