Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton heads a 12-strong Irish contingent bidding to win European Tour cards in Spain.

The Dubliner, 44, will be making his eighth successive visit to the stomach churning Qualifying School since 1999.

But this is the first time he will have to come through the preliminaries of Stage Two, where 310 hopefuls are chasing just 80 places in this month's Finals at San Roque.

Walton will be in action at Emporda in Catalunya, one of four qualifying venues, where the top 20 will progress to next week's six- round finals.

He's joined in today's first round draw by Michael McGeady, David Mortimer, Stephen Browne and Damian Mooney with former Amateur champion Brian McElhinney in action at nearby PGA Catalunya.

The other six Irish hopefuls are in action in southern Spain with Ulsterman Michael Hoey and David P Jones set to tee it up at Costa Ballena Club de Golf in Cadiz.

Eddie Barr, Peter Martin, Simon Thornton and Challenge Tour regular Colm Moriarty are at Sherry Golf in Jerez.

And Moriarty is hopeful that he will be inside the top 20 at his venue who will progress to the finals, where the top 30 and ties earn their full European Tour cards.

After a disappointing season on the Challenge Tour, the Glasson Golf & Country Club professional needs a good week.

He said: "I think that now I am better placed in terms of my swing to achieve my goal of playing on the European Tour.

"Obviously there are certain hills to climb over the next month but I am confident that I can do it."