Moynihan on a shot to nothing at Q-School
Gavin Moynihan. Picture: PGA Europro Tour

Gavin Moynihan. Picture: PGA Europro Tour

Gavin Moynihan is confident he can turn an already memorable year into an unforgettable one by grabbing his European Tour card at the Qualifying School in Spain.

A year ago, he was licking his wounds after missing out at the First Stage, locking his clubs in the garage for nearly a month before working out what on earth he was going to do next.

The answer was to call Black Bush teaching professional Shane O’Grady for his first golf lesson for more ten months following the sudden death of his long-time coach Hugh Jackson the previous September.

Today, he's got Category 18 status on the European Tour, confidence to burn and a top 10 finish in mind as he tees it up at Lumine Golf Club with Ruaidhri McGee, Cormac Sharvin and Dermot McElroy, seeking to improve his status at the marathon, six-round Final Stage.

"I am looking forward to it," said Moynihan, who finished 19th on the Challenge Tour money list this season, just €12,000 outside the top 15  who earned automatic promotion to the main tour for 2018. 

"All in all it's been a very positive year on the course out here. After starting the year with no category at all, I can be proud.”

It's been a remarkable 12 months for the two-time Walker Cup player, who regained his confidence under O'Grady, who has coached Leona Maguire to number one in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

While he had some guaranteed Challenge Tour starts via Team Ireland Golf, Moynihan had to go to the third tier EuroPro Tour Q-School in March to find somewhere to play and then went out and won his first event.

Three weeks later he headed to Spain for a new, nine-hole matchplay event on the Challenge Tour and reached the final.

"Last year I wasn't enjoying it as much. I was trying too hard and I wasn't myself. This year, if I didn't play well, I wasn't upset about it as I was last year. You get a few decent results early and you can kick on. So winning on the Europro Tour was great.

Golf was suddenly fun again, and it showed in Moynihan's results as he racked up nine top-25s in 18 Challenge Tour starts and another one on the European Tour at the Irish Open.

"On the Challenge Tour, I thought you had to shoot 67, 68, 69 every round," he said. "But you don't. You have to ease your way into an event. If was one over through eight or nine, it affected me. My confidence was gone. For Challenge Tour, the biggest thing is your wedge play has to be very, very good.

“The fairways on the Challenge Tour are not wide open, but there aren't the same rewards for good driving. Some players are incredible on putting inside 15 feet every week. But there is nothing to be afraid of. I know if I do play well I can win so now I just want to push on next year.”

The Final Stage of Q-School is torture for most, but with 10-12 European Tour starts guaranteed next term, Moynihan is virtually stress-free.

“Considering it’s the Final Stage, it’s a pretty relaxed week for me this week,” he beamed. 

“The ranking I have from the Challenge Tour will give me a good number of European Tour starts anyway, so I can just go for it this week – if I play well, great, if I don’t it’s not the end of the world for me.

“I started the year with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was at the EuroPro Q-School in March just trying to get a bit of form going, so to have had the year I’ve had is incredible really.”

Moynihan missed just two cuts on the Challenge Tour all year, but it was his performances in European Tour events that convinced him that he has the game to win on tour.

His closing 64 for a share of 14th in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart — just one of the 30 rounds in the sixties he posted this year — showed he’s a special talent.

“The biggest thing was I only missed two cuts,” he said. “I think last year I only made about three.

“Overall it’s been such a positive year that I can just look forward to this week and see it as a bonus if it all goes well – I’ve got nothing to lose so I’m going to be aggressive and see how it ends up.”

He’s not the only Team Ireland Golf recipient going for glory.

Ballymena’s McElroy (24) is making his second visit to the Final Stage since 2013 while Derry’s McGee will be at the last chance saloon for the third year in a row.

It’s the first time at the Final Stage for Moynihan and Ardglass; Sharvin (23), who fired a 64 in the final round of Stage Two to make the Final Stage.

The 156-man field features no fewer than 30 European Tour winners, including seven-time champion Gonzalo Fernandez Castaño of Spain, who has taken on fellow seven-time winner Alvaro Quiros as his caddie for the week.