Winning your card the start of the long, hard road
 Ready to go in the final round of Q-School

Ready to go in the final round of Q-School

You might think the 30 players who won European Tour cards would be doing cartwheels but given the structure of the European Tour, they are guaranteed little in 2016-17 beyond 20-odd opportunities to play in small events.

Michael Hoey would love to have won back his card but even before a ball was struck, he knew he was playing for a very minor ticket that requires you win over €250,000.

As 47 year old Ricardo Gonzalez, the loveable Argentinian, hugged anyone who got close enough to congratulate him on winning back his card and becoming the oldest ever graduate, Hoey tried hard not to rain on his parade.

"Ricardo was brilliant and he is delighted," Hoey said after seeing Gonzalez's fabulous final round 64 up close. "But he is not going to get into much with a Q-School card. That’s the worst thing about it. 

“He has done all that work and he’s playing for 29% of the money next year unless he gets a few invites. He will get 20 odd starts but they will be in the €1 million events, so you have to play unbelievably well. Unbelievably well.

"And I always knew that. If I you get through this, you have to play unbelievably well to stay on tour. I will have to play Challenge Tour and try to finish Top 15. The Challenge Tour graduates are at least ranked ahead of Q-School when it comes to getting into events.”

A quick look at this year's Race to Dubai shows that nine of last year's 26 Q-School graduates kept their cards with Paul Dunne 106th of the 111 who survived.

Dunne got 24 starts thanks to some good play and some invitations from sponsors but others were not so fortunate and the average number of starts was 20.8.

The new Rolex Series is meaningless for most graduates though the English, Irish and Scottish players can always hold out hope of getting an invitation to tee it up in one of the $7m Rolex Series events such the the BMW PGA, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open or the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

In other words, the rich will get richer and the poor will continue to struggle.

As things stand, not every graduate from Q-School will get into the first three events of the 2016-17 season in Australia, South Africa and Hong Kong between now and Christmas.

Mention the new Access List and there is no interest from the likes of Hoey, who is a member of the Players' Committee.

He said: “It is not going to make that much difference to guys coming from Q-School. Getting your card here is still means competing for 29% of the money (total prize funds) compared to 47% in 2014. You think you have a really good job, but you don’t. You have to play great. " 

Keeping your card after graduating from the Challenge Tour proved to be just as difficult in 2016 as just five of the 15 graduates finished in the Top 111 in the Race to Dubai.

Top level professional golf continues to be the domain of the hugely talented. The top tier thrive but those beyond the top 60 money winners are modest worker bees struggling to do a tough, lonely job.