Cian Curley made a solid start to the Qualifying School in Crewe. Picture via ciancurley.comFive of Ireland’s 14 hopefuls were inside the qualifying mark after the opening rounds of the Section B European Tour Qualifying School tests in England and Germany.

Newlands’ Cian Curley shot a two under 70 at Wychwood Park near Crewe to share fifth place, two shots behind leader Nils Floren of Sweden, at a venue where the top 23 and ties will progress to November’s second stage in Spain.

A steady 72 by David Higgins and 74s for Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell and Old Conna’s Donal Gleeson left them inside the qualifying places with reigning British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar, David Jones and Barrie Trainor just a shot outside after 75s.

A six over 78 left former Walker Cup star Paul Cutler with work to do over the next three days but it was just as tough for the three Irish players in action at Fleesensee in Germany.

Another Swede, Joakim Rask, set the pace with a blistering eight under 64 but Niall Kearney was the only Irishman inside the top 24 and ties after a three under 69.

Shane Franklin and former professional soccer player Stephen Grant shot four over 76s yet were still only two shots outside the qualifying places.

Franklin got off to a nightmare start by taking a triple bogey seven after his opening hole while Grant had two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in a rollercoaster opening five holes.

First Qualifying Stage Section B

Scores - Wychwood Park, Crewe, England

<<Top 23 and ties to progress>>

1 Nils Floren (Swe) 68 (-4)

T5 Cian CURLEY Team Ireland 70 (-2)

T9 David HIGGINS Waterville Golf Links 72 (E)

T21 Jonathan CALDWELL Clandeboye GC 74 (+2)
T21 Donal GLEESON Old Conna Golf Club 74 (+2)

<<Top 23 and ties +2 or better>>

T34 Alan DUNBAR (AM) Rathmore GC 75 (+3)
T34 David P JONES Bushfoot GC 75 (+3)
T34 Barrie TRAINOR Mayobridge GC 75 (+3)

T57 Paul CUTLER Portstewart 78 (+6)

T75 Graeme DUNLEA Adare Manor H&GR 80 (+8)
T75 Matt MCALPINE (AM) Royal Portrush 80 (+8)

T85 Nick BRENNAN Bowood 87 (+13)

Scores - Golf & Country Club Fleesensee, Göhren-Lebbin, Germany

<<Top 23 and ties to progress>

1 Joakim Rask (Swe) 64 (-8)

T15 Niall KEARNEY Royal Dublin 69 (-3)

<<Top 23 and ties +2 or better>>

T80 Shane FRANKLIN Ireland 76 (+4)
T80 Stephen GRANT The Heritage 76 (+4)

The Second Qualifying Stagewill take place across four venues in Spain – Campo de Golf El Saler, Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, El Valle Golf Resort and Lumine Golf & Beach Club – from November 7-10.

Approximately 310 players will line up at those four venues, with about 80 progressing through to the Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort from November 24-29.