Q-School: No joy for the Irish as Hoey and Hurley come unstuck over closing holes
Gary Hurley misses for bogey on the sixth at PGA Catalunya Resort following his one-shot penalty for causing his ball to move in the rough

Gary Hurley misses for bogey on the sixth at PGA Catalunya Resort following his one-shot penalty for causing his ball to move in the rough

He could blame a small pine needle for a harsh one-stroke penalty that ended up costing him two shots.

But like Michael Hoey, who also left empty-handed, West Waterford’s Gary Hurley knows that too many mistakes were made and too many putts were missed over 108 holes as he missed out on his card in the European Tour Qualifying School at PGA Catalunya Resort.

While Hoey’s year long struggles with his game manifested themselves at exactly the critical moment and he hit shots into water at his 12th and 13th holes to make back to back sixes to tie for 37th and miss out by two strokes on three under par after a 72, Hurley’s demise was more dramatic as mother nature and the Rules of Golf conspired against him at just the wrong time.

Five strokes outside the eventual five under par qualifying mark starting the day, the 23-year old started with a bogey at the 10th but then surged into the mix thanks to a sensational run of five successive birdies from his second hole.

Ironically, considering it was his putting he felt let him down in the end, the happy-go-lucky Waterford lad rattled in putts from all angles — 30 feet for a two at the 11th, close range at the par-five 12th, 10 feet at the 13th, 20 feet at the 14th and six feet at the par-five 15th to get within two shots of the Holy Grail - the top 25 and ties.

Even when he bogeyed the second, his 11th, following a poor chip, he recovered superbly by reducing the par-five third to a perfect drive and a ripped rescue club to the heart of the green.

With six holes to go, the dream was very much alive. Then, in the space of 30 minutes, it evaporated in front of his eyes.

With playing partners Simon Khan and Robert Dinwiddie enduring problems on the 411-yard fourth — the toughest hole on the final day — he had too much time to contemplate a tricky wedge to a tight back left pin and airmailed the green before missing a three footer for par.

Annoyed, he narrowly failed to birdie the fifth after a glorious five-iron to 15 feet, then saw his tour card get away at the sixth.

Two yards short of the green in the rough, he went to see if a pine needle near his ball was embedded or loose and touched it. It proved to be a fatal move.

“It was a double pine needle,” Hurley explained. “Half of it looked like it might be stuck in the ground. I just touched it and saw it was stuck. And the ball didn’t move. 

“Then I stood up and just as I was glancing away, I saw the ball just roll.”

He called over referee Gary Butler and was handed a one-stroke penalty before hitting an average chip and missing a three footer for bogey.

“I couldn’t even get the ball back to where it was originally,” he said. “Anyway, my head was a bit melted for that chip shot and that putt.”

Back to one under par, Hurley did well to birdie the par-five seventh and the par the last two holes for a two under par 70 that left him tied for 44th on two under par.

He ended up three strokes outside the magic number which slipped from six to five under at the death, allowing exactly 30 players to win their cards.

IRONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 17:  Tournament champion Nathan Kimsey of England poses following the final round of the European Tour qualifying school final stage at PGA Catalunya Resort on November 17, 2016 in Girona, Spain.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

IRONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 17:  Tournament champion Nathan Kimsey of England poses following the final round of the European Tour qualifying school final stage at PGA Catalunya Resort on November 17, 2016 in Girona, Spain.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

But despite his disappointment, Hurley left Girona with more than he had on arrival — a full Challenge Tour card and the knowledge that he is good enough to make it.

“I just hit two or three shots that weren’t good enough,” he said. “I wasn’t at my best and I gave myself a chance. This time it just didn’t work out. I will go away and try to get better. 

“Putting is probably the best part of my game but it just left me the last two weeks. If I had just putted half decent this week, it could have been so much better. But it is over now and we will regroup and I can plan my season next year on Challenge Tour, which is nice.

“If you had said to me a month ago I’d have a chance down to the stretch to win my card, I’d definitely have taken it. I struggled with my game over the summer.”

The five under 65 he shot in round four to make the cut on the number, coupled with the first 12 holes of the final round will stand to Hurley now.

“To shoot five under to make the cut was huge for me going forward,” he said, before admitting that he needs to work in speeding up on the greens. “And even today after bogeying the first, I played great.”

Hoey’s demise didn’t come on the greens but between the ears.

Having fought back to one under par after an opening double bogey six at the 10th — he birdied the 12th, 15th and second, — he hit a 90 yard wedge over the third green into the lake and made a bogey six, then pulled a three-wood tee shot into the lake at the fourth and ran up a double bogey six.

Having been within a shot of the eventual qualifying mark with six holes to play, those back-to-back sixes ended his challenge and three birdies and a bogey over the last five holes were simply academic.

"I just misjudged it," Hoey said of his third to the third. "I have done that all year. Hit a good shot in the water. It’s really stupid. I am not trying to be stupid. I had 90 yards and I convinced myself it was playing longer because it was into the wind.

"I was expecting it to spin back but a few yards less would have been perfect. You can’t do that stuff and I have done that all year. That’s what cost me. The third round was also a case of total misjudgements. My game is fine but it is about thinking clearly over shots.  I don’t know why I haven’t been able to do it this year but I haven’t been able to.

"The three wood on four, I got a huge bounce in the water, that was a bit unlucky. It just sums up the year in terms of misjudgements. And I haven’t putted as well as I have needed to. I haven’t played that badly.

“I could have made it easily this week but it is all about being sharp and having judgement and I haven’t had that. Hopefully I can get some of it again and get my card from the Challenge Tour next year.”

Hoey’s disappointment contrasted with the joy felt by playing partner Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina, who at 47 years and 24 days, became the oldest ever Q-School graduate.

The burly South American shot an eight under 64 to finish tied second with Scotland’s Scott Henry and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari, a shot behind tournament winner Nathan Kimsey on 12 under par.

“I feel great because I waited for a year to do this and it’s a lot of pressure,” said the emotional Argentinian afterwards. “When you finish like this, with a 64 in the last round on a difficult course, it’s impossible to feel bad.

“I said to my caddie when we started the round ‘let’s just play like every day, play solid and make putts.’ That happened today. I made a good putt on the 11th, on the 12th, 14th, 15th and when the ball goes in you feel better and relaxed.

“It’s good because for the last three years I’ve come to Q School and it’s given me that motivation. Last year I missed the cut, but I played well. Today I think I’m going to be close to getting my card! It’s one of the best days of the year for me.”

Eddie Pepperell retained his European Tour status with a gutsy performance over the six days having finished 113th in the Race to Dubai and the 25 year old was pleased to have rediscovered some form in Girona.

“I played really nice all week, just putted poorly,” he said. “Today I lost a few shots on the back nine and I am just relieved to get in and not do any more damage as it would have been a tough one to take because I played so well for five and a half days.

“Overall I am just really relieved and I am pleased. It is probably the most stressful day I have had on a golf course watching Tom (Lewis) and Richie (McEvoy), who had a bad one but managed to get in, and it is something I do not want to do again.

“I am looking forward to next year and think I have turned a corner with my golf swing which is important. I know I can go close to winning the big events when I play close to the top of my game, and that’s what I have got to do and I will hopefully have another shot at doing that now.

“If I can carry on doing what I have been over the last two months during the next 12 months then I am not worried about myself.”

Y. E. Yang, the first Major winner ever to compete at Q-School, also finished inside the top 25, the Korean’s eight under par total underpinned by a staggering 67 in windy conditions on the third day.

Kimsey's two under par round of 70 was enough for a 13 under par total, and he becomes only the second player in history – after Oskar Henningsson in 2008 – to navigate the marathon 252 holes of Q-School and come out on top at PGA Catalunya Resort – a European Tour Destination.

Behind him, late bogeys for Niclas Johansson, Richard McEvoy and Jamie Rutherford brought the qualifying mark down to five under par, meaning Jaco Ahlers, Gary King and Espen Kofstad all also earned European Tour promotions with the top 25 and ties winning cards.

European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, PGA Catalunya Resort, Girona, Spain (Stadium Course Par 72; Tour Course, Par 70)

After round six (last 2 rounds on Stadium Course):

Qualifiers

415 N Kimsey (Eng) 70 70 71 61 73 70;

416 R Gonzalez (Arg) 67 73 72 71 69 64; S Henry (Sco) 64 75 70 72 68 67; E Molinari (Ita) 66 68 72 69 67 74;

418 S Tiley (Eng) 64 71 74 71 71 67; J Fahrbring (Swe) 68 68 72 72 70 68; A Karlsson (Swe) 71 69 71 68 71 68; E Pepperell (Eng) 69 69 69 71 69 71;

419 J Parry (Eng) 71 67 69 75 69 68; M Nixon (Eng) 67 73 71 68 68 72;

420 R Echenique (Arg) 69 69 72 71 73 66; S Soderberg (Swe) 72 71 73 65 69 70; P Maddy (Eng) 75 67 72 67 68 71; Y Yang (Kor) 72 70 67 69 71 71; T Lewis (Eng) 73 65 71 68 70 73;

421 S Manley (Wal) 72 63 73 69 74 70; A Chesters (Eng) 68 66 73 73 70 71; J Winther (Den) 68 68 68 71 75 71;

422 S Heisele (Ger) 68 66 72 73 76 67; L Canter (Eng) 69 66 73 73 71 70; P Widegren (Swe) 72 71 74 66 68 71; R Johnson (Swe) 72 67 72 71 69 71; M Foster (Eng) 67 71 74 72 66 72; M Orrin (Eng) 67 68 76 67 70 74;

423 G King (Eng) 73 66 74 69 75 66; J Ahlers (RSA) 70 71 72 67 74 69; E Kofstad (Nor) 67 68 74 71 72 71; J Rutherford (Eng) 72 72 70 66 68 75; N Johansson (Swe) 70 67 70 69 72 75; R McEvoy (Eng) 63 69 71 72 72 76;

Non-qualifiers

424 O Lengden (Swe) 73 65 68 78 70 70; J Suri (USA) 64 70 74 73 72 71; J Allan (Eng) 67 70 72 73 70 72; A Connelly (Can) 71 67 73 69 72 72; J Heath (Eng) 70 71 74 65 70 74; R Coles (Eng) 64 68 71 72 74 75;

425 A Rai (Eng) 66 67 74 74 75 69; Michael Hoey (Nir) 70 67 76 71 69 72; D Burmester (RSA) 73 68 73 68 71 72; D Fox (Aus) 72 66 71 70 73 73; R Gangjee (Ind) 68 69 73 71 70 74; K Horne (RSA) 68 72 69 72 70 74; R McGowan (Eng) 68 66 70 72 75 74;

426 Gary Hurley (Irl) 74 69 76 65 72 70; J Blaauw (RSA) 71 67 73 72 71 72; R Kellett (Sco) 72 66 73 72 71 72; O Wilson (Eng) 68 70 71 72 73 72; Z Lombard (RSA) 67 67 74 72 70 76;

427 C Ford (Eng) 76 63 70 69 77 72; M Lundberg (Swe) 71 70 72 67 74 73;

428 D Van Driel (Ned) 66 69 70 73 78 72; C Braeunig(Ger) 66 67 73 74 72 76;

429 S Webster (Eng) 64 74 74 72 74 71; R McCarthy (Aus) 74 64 74 70 75 72; R Dinwiddie (Eng) 72 69 73 70 72 73; E Van Rooyen (RSA) 71 67 68 74 75 74; E Dubois (Fra) 71 65 74 73 71 75;

430 B Neil (Sco) 64 72 71 77 78 68; B Etchart (Esp) 66 72 73 72 74 73; B Eccles (Aus) 67 68 74 74 74 73; M Delpodio (Ita) 73 68 76 67 71 75; E Di Nitto (Ita) 70 69 71 73 71 76; G Porteous (Eng) 73 66 73 70 71 77; D Law (Sco) 66 71 68 76 71 78; 

431 T Chuayprakong (Tha) 64 74 67 74 79 73; M Ford (Eng) 72 68 72 72 71 76;

432 A Maestroni (Ita) 68 74 73 69 75 73; J Guerrier (Fra) 69 70 68 74 75 76; R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) 67 72 73 71 68 81;

433 B Stow (Eng) 69 70 73 72 73 76; S Khan (Eng) 72 67 69 73 74 78;

434 M Lafeber (Ned) 65 71 72 75 71 80.