Ireland’s quartet of hopefuls got off to solid if unspectacular starts on the opening day of the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort near Girona.
The top 25 and ties and will earn their 2014 European Tour spurs after six gruelling rounds but the first task is to make the 72-hole cut for the Top 70 and ties on Wednesday evening. Scoreboard
And while all four would have liked to go even lower as they took on the tough Stadium Course and the more forgiving Tour Course at the Catalan resort, no major damage was done.
David Higgins, who won back his card at PGA Catalunya last year, was forced to birdie three of his last four holes to open with a three under 67 on the Tour Course and end the day tied for 28th.
It was a modest enough start for the Waterville man, but he knows that while going low on the Tour Course is important, it’s even more crucial to avoid a big number on the Stadium Course.
That’s what Rosapenna’s Ruaidhiri McGee achieved on his first appearance in the finals, posting a two under 70 on the more demanding of the two tracks to share 44th spot.
Starting at the first, McGee picked up a birdie four at the downhill third, bogeyed the par-five seventh but then picked up shots at the 10th and par-five 12th to join Higgins in 44th
Ballymena amateur Dermot McElroy had an eagle, two birdies and two bogeys in a 68 on the Tour Course to join McGee on two under.
And while Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan had a one over 73 on the Stadium Course that left him back in 103rd, he knows that a solid round on the Tour Course on Monday will catapult him back into the Top-70.
The four round cut fell at two over par in 2012, two under in 2011 and three under in 2010, which would indicate that players will have to target a sub par score if they are to remain in the hunt for cards over the final 36 holes on the Stadium Course.
The top 25 and ties will secure playing rights on the 2014 European Tour and while that mark fell at 10 under in 2010, the top 25 were eight under in 2011 and five under par last year.
Players who began on the Tour Course dominated the leaderboard after the opening day, filling 23 of the top 27 places on the leaderboard.
Frenchman Eduoard Espana fired an eight under 62 there to lead by two shots from American Tain Lee, former Irish Open champion Richard Finch, Higgins’ playing partner Jamie Elson, Swede Michael Jonzon, Germany’s Thomas Pieters and Swede Jens Danthorp, whose six under 66 on the Stadium Course was arguably the round of the day.
DAY ONE FACTS AND FIGURES - via EuropeanTour.com
62 – Edouard Espana’s stunning opening score after taming the Tour Course on Sunday
0 – Bogeys for the Frenchman on day one
9 – Years since Richard Finch gained his European Tour card at the 2004 Qualifying School Final Stage
64 – His score on Sunday in what was his first Q-School round since then
66 – The lowest total on the testing Stadium Course on day one, set by Sweden’s Jens Dantorp
7 – Different nationalities in the top ten after round one (4 Englishmen; 3 Swedes; 1 American, Belgian, Dane, Frenchman, Scotsman)
8 – The position of Alastair Forsyth following the first round, the best of the five former Final Stage winners in the field
31 – Years between the oldest and youngest competitors at Final Stage: Gregory Main (18) and Cesar Monasterio (49)
4 – Shots better off the Argentinian veteran was following the first round than his younger American counterpart
83 – Players under par after the first of six rounds at PGA Catalunya
26 – Of whom played on the Stadium Course on Sunday
15 – Shots between first and last place following the first round
90 – Holes remaining in the marathon examination for those who make the cut
NB – These are collated scores from the par-70 Tour Course and par-72 Stadium Course. Positions in the field may vary.
62 E Espana (Fra)
64 M Jonzon (Swe), T Pieters (Bel), J Elson (Eng), R Finch (Eng), T Lee (USA)
65 J Lagergren (Swe), L Bjerregaard (Den), W Harrold (Eng), D Brooks (Eng), A Forsyth (Sco)
66 J Barnes (Eng), F Zanotti (Par), C Hanson (Eng), O Stark (Swe), A Gee (Eng), E Goya (Arg), R Karlberg (Swe), N Lemke (Swe), J Hahn (USA), J Dantorp (Swe), A McArthur (Sco), P Sjöland (Swe), A Domingo (Esp)
67 D Kemmer (USA), A Johnston (Eng), M Tullo (Chi), J Timmis (Eng), G Murray (Sco), C Monasterio (Arg), A Hartø (Den), C Paisley (Eng), D Higgins (Irl), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) C Del Moral, (Esp)
68 N Quintarelli (Ita), D Stewart (Sco), J Doherty (Sco), W Besseling (Ned), J Watts (Eng), J Lucquin (Fra), T Whitehouse (Eng), H Leon (Chi), A Haig (RSA), B Dredge (Wal), S Manley (Wal), T Sluiter (Ned), C Shinkwin (am) (Eng), D McElroy (am) (Nir)
69 D Gavins (Eng), D Vancsik (Arg), T Linard (Fra), M Hensby (Aus), W Ormsby (Aus), P Hedblom (Swe), O Wilson (Eng), K Benz (Sui), S Wakefield (Eng), M Korhonen (Fin), N Ravano (Ita), L Bond (Wal), J Edfors (Swe), F Andersson Hed (Swe), J Heath (Eng), B Stone (RSA), M Lundberg (Swe)
70 B Paolini (USA), D Im (USA), J Knutzon (USA), R McGee (Irl), M Delpodio (Ita) R Pettersson (Swe) E Kofstad (Nor) C Dammert (am) (Ger)
71 G Stal (Fra), M Wiegele (Aut), A Marshall (Eng), K Pratt (Aus), B Henson (USA), M Lafeber (Ned), S Hodgson (Eng), A Dodt (Aus), M Orrin (Eng), J Fahrbring (Swe), E Cole (USA), A Saddier (Fra), D McGuigan (Sco), B An (Kor), J Robinson (Eng), M Crespi (Ita), G Cambis (Fra), T Nørret (Den), Z Scotland (Eng), B Evans (Eng), R Davies (Wal), K Ferrie (Eng)
72 O Fisher (Eng), S Henry (Sco), J Morrison (Eng), J Fly (USA), C Arendell (USA), V Phillips (Eng), F Fritsch (Ger), N Fenwick (Sco), O Floren (Swe), A Garcia-Heredia (Esp), K Horne (RSA), J Huldahl (Den), I Garrido (Esp), C Suneson (Esp), P Archer (Eng), G Lockerbie (Eng), M Zions (Aus), T Van Der Walt (RSA), G Wright (Wal)
73 G Main (USA), A Maestroni (Ita), P Martin Benavides (Esp), N Nissen (Den), O Bekker (RSA), C Bouniol (Fra), D Dixon (Eng), K Phelan (Irl), P Edberg (Swe) C Ortiz (Mex) N Dougherty (Eng), J Ahlers (RSA) J Guerrier (Fra) J Granberg (Fin) D Popovic (Aus)
74 P Price (Wal), M Brier (Aut), L Gagli (Ita), A Bernadet (Fra), O Lieser (Cze), R Steiner (Aut), A Björk (Swe), J Lara (Esp)
75 L Goddard (Eng), E Dubois (Fra), S Arnold (Aus), S Drummond (Sco), Y Tsukada (Jpn), M Grönberg (Swe), B Åkesson (Swe)
76 J Bäckström (Swe), B Ritthammer (Ger), R Russell (Sco), J Lando Casanova (Fra)
77 O Henningsson (Swe), A McLardy (RSA), D Ulrich (Sui), R McGowan (Eng), J Rask (Swe), J Sjöholm (Swe)
79 A Kaleka (Fra)