McElroy leads as 21 Irish enjoy mixed fortunes at Europro Tour Q-School
Dermot McElroy. Picture © Jimmy Penrose

Dermot McElroy. Picture © Jimmy Penrose

Ballymena's Dermot McElroy fired a two-under-par 69 to head the qualifiers after the first round of the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School Stage One at The Carrick.

The former West of Ireland champion is one of 398 players competing at six UK courses for a place in next week's Final Stage at Frilford Heath and the chance to clinch a top Europro Tour category for the 2017 season.

McElroy is one of 21 Irish golfers in action in Stage One, which is played over 36 holes with varying numbers set to qualify at each venue.

At Mannings Heath south of London, Headfort's Joe Dillon and Peter Williamson are tied third after two-under 70s in the race for one of 36 qualifying places with Headfort's Brian Casey tied 11th after a 70.

North West's Brian McElhinney, who has secured sponsorship to play a full season on the mini-tour circuit this year, shot a one under 72 to share seventh place at Caversham Heath near Reading with Delgany's Simon Bryan also in the running for one of 38 places after a 76.

Sligo man Michael Durcan, now a professional at Beverley and East Riding Golf Club, is tied for second at Formby Hall after a two under par 70.

Seven Irishmen are chasing just 15 spots at Stoke-by-Nayland with  Edenderry's Ger Hall tied third after a 69 and Omagh's Nial Kearns (73) is tied 15th.

However, The Island's David Rawluk (75), David Carey  (76), Concra Woods' Sean Denny (78), Mark Whelan (79) and Woodbrook's Colm Crowley (79) need good second rounds today.

At The Players Club in Bristol, where 35 qualify, Halpenny Golf's Steven Quinlan is tied second after a three-under 68 with Declan Loftus  (73) and Ciaran Molloy (74) also inside the qualifying mark. 

Peter Redmond (76) and Narin & Portnoo's Brendan McCarroll (79) have work to do. (+2).

A total of 178 players will qualify from Stage One and join the already exempt 62 players at Frilford Heath from April 5-6.

The leading 80 players will play a final round on the Blue Course on Friday 7 April, with the top 30 earning category 3 and entry to the 2017 PGA EuroPro Tour.

Players who made it to the Final Stage will earn a category 14 card with the top 80 exempt in category 10. 

Those who do not qualify for Final Stage will be awarded Category 15 status and ranked in order of their finishing position at the Qualifying School. PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School Stage One

How the Irish fared

Mannings Heath – 36 qualify


T3 Joe Dillon (Headfort 70 (-2)
T3 Peter Williamson (Unattached) 70 (-2)
T11 Brian Casey  (Unattached) 72 (E)

Caversham Heath – 38 qualify


T7 Brian McElhinney (North West) 72 (-1)
T31 Simon Bryan (Delgany) 76 (+3)
T43 Richard Bridges (Stackstown) 77 (+4)
79 Fionntan Lawlor (Unattached) 83 (+10)

Formby Hall – 38 qualify


T2 Michael Durcan  (Beverley and East Riding GC) 70 (-2)
T31 David Rawluk  (The Island) 75 (+3)
T41 David Carey  (Unattached) 76 (+4)
T57 Sean Denny (Concra Wood) 78 (+6)
T63 Mark Whelan (Allied Pension Trustees) 79 (+7)
T63 Colm Crowley  (Woodbrook) 79 (+7)

Stoke by Nayland – 18 qualify


T3 Ger Hall  (Edenderry Golf Academy) 69 (-3)
T15 Nial Kearns  (Omagh) 73 (+1)

The Carrick – 13 qualify


1 Dermot McElroy  (Ballymena) 69 (-2)

Players Club – 35 qualify


T2 Steven Quinlan (Halpenny Golf) 68 (-3)
T21 Declan Loftus  (Unattached) 73 (+2)
T27 Ciaran Molloy (Blackwood Golf Centre) 74 (+3)
T42 Peter Redmond (a)  (Unattached) 76 (+5)
T63 Brendan McCarroll (Narin & Portnoo) 79 (+2)