Until today, Pat Errity’s biggest claim to fame was that he took Padraig Harrington to the 15th in the quarter-finals of the 1994 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Portmarnock.
The 49-year old Delgany man never played for Ireland in a long amateur career but that doesn’t matter now after he carded an immaculate, five under par 66 - which included a holed nine-iron from 140 yards for the most unlikely of pars - to finish second in the European Senior Tour Qualifying School at Pestana Golf Resort’s Vale da Pinta course, earning his place alongside pal Eamonn Darcy on the over 50s circuit for 2011.
Errity’s amateur career will end on March 21 next year, when he celebrates his 50th birthday, packs his bags and heads off to rubs shoulders with the likes of Darcy, Ian Woosnam, Sam Torrance and Des Smyth in the professional ranks.
In a happy co-incidence, he is the second amateur from The European Club to make it to the senior tour, following in the footsteps of Harry McKinney, who has since regained his amateur status.
American Tim Thelen fired a closing 65 to win by five shots from Errity and Sweden’s Peter Dahlberg on nine-under. He topped the 16-strong graduating class as six earned full cards with Jimmy Heggarty snatching the last of 10 alternate cards.
Heggarty’s closing 68 was a brilliant effort but Errity’s 66 was one of the stories of the day as he produced an incredible par four at the 418-yard eighth hole and never looked back, winning the second card on a countback from the Swede Dahlberg.
One-under par for his round following a nerve settling birdie at the first, things could have gone pear-shaped for the reigning Irish Mid-Amateur champion when he drove out of bounds at the eighth. But he reloaded, split the fairway and promptly holed out with a nine-iron from 140 yards for a morale-boosting four.
After a par-three at the ninth, Errity cruised home in four under 33, following with birdies at the par-five 10th and 12th holes with further gains at the 14th and 15th. (See scores below)
Irish Golf Desk: That was some performance. Congratulations.
Pat Errity: Thanks. I’m thrilled. Myself and my brother are in cloud cuckoo land here. It’s fantastic. The main objective was to get through the first qualifying stage and once I did that I just wanted to play good golf in the main event. I can’t believe it.
IGD: Talk me through that par on the eighth. It made all the difference because you were tied ninth going into the final round and needed a good score to get one of the six full cards.IGD: You shot a 74 in the wind on Wednesday’s third round. Was it tough out there today?
PE: I hit my tee shot out of bounds but I hit my provisional ball up the middle and holed my second shot from 140 yards for a par and that was huge for me. It was a nine-iron and I didn’t see it go in the hole. I saw the pitch mark three feet behind the pin so it spun back into the hole. The people up by the green thought I had made an eagle but I was just delighted to make par. It kept me going and I played really well on the back nine and picked up four shots.
PE: Conditions were lovely today. It was very benign with no wind and the course was fantastic.
IGD: What inspired you to go to the Qualifying School in the first place? You’ve obviously been playing well.
PE: Well I have been playing a lot of golf with Eamonn Darcy and he pushed me towards it. So I decided I was going to give it three years. I wasn’t expecting to get my card the first year. So we have full playing rights for next year, which is fantastic.
IGD: Eamonn obviously thinks you have the game to compete on the Senior Tour. Do you go back a long way?
PE: I am originally from Delgany and I played all my golf there. I am still a member but I joined The European Club and play most of my golf there now. I have known Eamonn for a long, long time. He has been a mentor for the last three or four years and I’ve caddied for him on tour a few times. We play a lot at Druids Glen and at The European Club, where he’s an honorary member, and he’s been telling me I have the game to compete on tour. He’s thrilled now that he will have somebody to travel with on tour.
IGD: Having a friendly face on the bag is a help. Who caddied for you this week?
PE: My brother David was caddying for me and it made a huge difference to me having him on the bag. I looked at the leaderboard a few days ago when I was five under and in the lead and I dropped three shots straight away. So David encouraged me not to look at the boards and it really helped. He knew where I was standing in the field. In fact, I had no idea I was second. I hadn’t a clue.
IGD: Tell us more about yourself. When did you start playing golf?
PE: I have been playing since I was nine. My father John got me into the game and he was a single figure player at Delgany all his life. I was first reserve on an Irish Boys team at one stage but never got to play international. I got the quarter-finals of the Irish Close at Portmarnock in 1994 but lost to Padraig Harrington (4 & 3). The amateur scene fizzled out for me when kids came along. But I started to play again and played inter-county golf with Wicklow and some mid amateur golf in recent years, winning the Munster Mid-Amateur (2008) and the Irish Mid-Amateur in 2008 and again this year. It’s held at The European Club.
IGD: What are you playing off now?
PE: I’m a plus one handicap but I have been down to plus two. I never played interprovincial golf at senior level. I had Leinster trials alright. My contemporaries growing would be guys like Philip Walton and Ronan Rafferty.
IGD: Next March you’ll be playing against guys that have played in Ryder Cups and won Majors. It must seem like a dream?
PE: It’s fantastic and I am looking forward to a few pints of Guinness tonight. It’s all going to be new to me and I don’t know what to expect next year. I’ll turn pro and just take it from there. As I said, I gave myself three years to get my card so to get it the first time of asking is just unbelievable. I am over the moon.
IGD: If you can play off plus one at The European Club, I guess you’re ready for just about anything?
PE: There is no way on earth that I would have won this card without playing at The European Club. With all due respect to Delgany, it is driver and pitching wedge golf course. But my long game has improved 200 percent since I started playing at The European Club.
Final round scores from the European Senior Tour Qualifying School at Pestana Golf Resort’s Vale da Pinta (par 71)
[Sixteen players gained cards for 2011, positions one to six in category six (full playing rights in 72 player events) and seven to 16 in category nine (alternate events).]
- 275 T Thelen (USA) 67 71 72 65,
- 280 Pat Errity (am) (Irl) 69 71 74 66
- 280 P Dahlberg (Swe) 67 72 73 68
- 282 F Mann (Sco) 72 71 70 69
- 282 A Fernandez (Chi) 71 72 69 70
- 282 M Moreno (Esp) 70 70 72 70,
- 283 J Stuart (USA) 71 70 72 70,
- 283 S Van Vuuren (RSA) 68 68 76 71
- 283 G Banister (Aus) 68 69 74 72
- 283 G Manson (Aut) 67 72 69 75,
- 284 J Stansberry (USA) 72 69 72 71,
- 285 B Evans (Eng) 73 70 74 68,
- 285 J Sallat (Fra) 72 71 72 70
- 285 F Illouz (am) (Fra) 71 70 73 71,
- 286 T Burgoyne (Sco) 70 70 75 71,
- 287 J Heggarty (Nir) 72 72 75 68
287 S Cipa (Eng) 72 71 75 69, P Smith (Sco) 69 71 76 71,
288 M Guzman (Arg) 73 74 72 69,
289 T Planchin (Fra) 72 69 73 75,
290 H Francis (Eng) 70 71 74 75, J Hoskison (Eng) 74 70 72 74, M Thomas (USA) 70 70 74 76, M Miller (Sco) 73 73 71 73, A Mackenzie (Sco) 69 74 76 71,
291 N Clarke (RSA) 71 77 73 70, A Barrera (Arg) 71 71 78 71, P Dugeny (Fra) 72 73 74 72, J Davila (Esp) 75 68 74 74,
292 N Mitchell (Eng) 74 70 75 73, M Lord (Eng) 72 73 75 72, M Kierstenson (Eng) 71 74 76 71, D Narveson (USA) 73 72 73 74, D Talbot (Can) 73 72 71 76,
293 D Gavrilovic (Eng) 71 70 77 75, S Bennett (Eng) 74 75 72 72,
294 R Masters (Eng) 73 72 77 72, J Murphy (am) (Eng) 74 75 73 72,
295 A Macdonald (Eng) 75 73 74 73, S East (am) (Eng) 74 71 74 76,
296 I Dougan (Sco) 73 68 78 77, M Deboub (Eng) 73 71 77 75,
297 V Garcia (Esp) 70 77 75 75, F Regard (Fra) 72 72 78 75, M Gallagher (Eng) 70 73 72 82,
301 D Blakeman (Eng) 71 75 76 79, G Krause (Eng) 75 68 79 79,
** M Briggs (Eng) 69 72 77 DQ,