Having briefly featured at the top of the leaderboard in the 2013 US Open Championship, promising young Irishman Kevin Phelan is relishing the very different pressures he will face when he battles it out for a European Tour card at the Qualifying School Final Stage this week, writes the European Tour.
Phelan, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on the Friday prior to this week’s gruelling six-round marathon at PGA Catalunya Resort, outside the Spanish town of Girona, made the cut at The US Open in June, having ended the opening day just four shots off Phil Mickelson’s lead.
As a fledgling young amateur, he was briefly under the glare of the world’s golf media at Merion and his professional debut at the KLM Open, where he made the cut, backed up the belief of many that the Waterford man is destined for the top.
Phelan is facing arguably the biggest test of his career this week when he battles it out in the 156-man field in the hope of claiming one of the limited European Tour cards on offer, awarded to those who finish in 25th place and ties. Q-School tee-times
While the pressure this week is a long way from the prestige and pomp of a Major Championship, Phelan says he is unfazed by what is at stake in northern Spain.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere here to The US Open obviously,” said the Florida-based player, who won two points out of three for Great Britain and Ireland’s 2013 Walker Cup team. “Obviously you don’t have any of the big crowds this week and you’re doing your own thing whereas at the US Open there are thousands of people out there.
“In some ways at the US Open it’s easier to concentrate because there are so many distractions, you really have to focus. Qualifying School feels to me more like a regular tournament.
“I’m happy to be here and this was the goal when I started in First Stage so it’s nice and I’m looking forward to having a good week hopefully.
“I don’t mind the pressure of this tournament itself, the only pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself, keeping an even keel. It’s the same game I played when I was an amateur and nothing has changed as far as I’m concerned, I just need to do my routine and plod along and keep myself to myself.
“It’s exciting and there is a big opportunity here so I’m looking forward to getting going tomorrow. It’s been busy the last couple of weeks so I just need to be fresh because it’s a long walk out there. The key is to take it one day at a time, it’s going to be such a long week that patience will be more important this week than any other.”
Phelan is joined in the field by David Higgins, Ruaidhri McGee and Northern Irish amateur Dermot McElroy, who claimed a top ten in his Challenge Tour debut last September at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge Presented By Clannah and XJET.