Dan's the man in Spain
The big dipper at Puerto Aventura theme park that sits beside Lumine Golf Club in Spain is an ironic symbol of the emotional rollercoaster ride that is the final stage of the European Tour qualifying school.
Joy and pain sit cheek by jowl during this gruelling six round marathon, and two Yorkshire golfers experienced the highs and lows as 28 players were handed a golden ticket to the European Tour.
As Howley Hall’s Daniel Gavins celebrated a return to the top table of European golf, Huddersfield’s Chris Hanson was trying to deal with the heartache of coming home in 40 over the very last 9-holes to miss out by two shots.
Their immediate reactions said it all. Leeds born Gavins tweeted: “It’s been a tough few years but we’re back on the European Tour!"
After five rounds Yorkshire Golfer columnist Hanson looked set to join Gavins as one of the top 25 and ties but his final round of 74 saw him plummet from a share of 10th into a tie for 37th.
“Tough one to take but will try move on quickly!! Game not solid enough when it matters...” tweeted Hanson, who has spent the last three years on Tour.
One of the players to overtake him was the strongly finishing Joe Dean from Hillsborough, whose final-round 67 saw him climb up to 28th which agonisingly turned out to be just one shot too many from graduating to the top tier.
Dean looked to have done enough after a brilliant 16 holes on the last round but was left to rue a bogey at the 8th, his 17th, to just miss out and the chance to cap off a great year.
The former English Amateur champion has made great strides this year thanks to some very consistent golf capped by a fifth-place finish in the PGA EuroPro Tour ranking which earned him a place on the Challenge Tour in 2019.
Dean’s top 30 finish at Lumine improved his overall ranking and he said: “I’m absolutely gutted to fall one shot short of a European Tour card at the qualifying school but looking forward to a new chapter in my career on the Challenge Tour.”
Gavins turned pro in 2012 having started the game at Wheatley Golf Club in Doncaster and was one of only seven players to come through all three stages of the qualifying school, playing a total of 252 holes.
Another graduate of the PGA EuroPro Tour, Gavins earned Challenge Tour exemption in 2014 before having a season on the main tour in 2016, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his second go around. He led the competition after rounds three and four before closing scores of 73 and 71 saw him fall into a tie for 13th, although it was enough to regain his Tour status by two shots.
Gavins carded a two under par 69 in round four to add to earlier rounds of 62, 69 and 66 to maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard as the 156-player field was reduced to 77.
“It was a lot tougher out there today,” said Gavins at the conclusion of 72 holes. “The wind really picked up and the flags were tucked away so it was hard to attack.
“But I’m really happy with the way I stayed patient out there today, and I holed the putts when I needed to. Anything under par at this stage is exactly what you need.
“I’ve come through Q-School before and I know I can do it again. There’s still a long way to go so I just need to take it one shot at a time.”
“It’s been pretty good so far. I’ve played on the EuroPro Tour this year and have been pretty consistent on there but didn’t hole a great deal of putts, so it was nice to come and hole a few so far this week.
“It’s been a tough few years since playing on the European Tour in 2016, so it would be nice, and it would mean a lot to get back there.”
The cut line, though, which fell at six under par, ended a remarkable run from another Howley Hall player Ben Hutchinson.
“Hutch” entered as an amateur thereby giving up the rights to any prize money and he was using the event as an invaluable learning experience.
The former county champion is widely tipped to be promoted to England Golf’s A squad in 2019 which will see him represent his country in parts of the world he has not previously experienced, and he was one of only two amateurs who successfully negotiated the first two stages and made in through to Lumine.
Moortown’s Nick McCarthy closed with a 72 to finish tied 63rd to end a life changing last few months.
He didn’t have the £1,750 entry fee for the Q school but a good week on the 1836 Tour at Northenden in the middle of August changed his fortunes.
“I wasn’t going to enter and then I played an 1836 and won £600 there. My girlfriend and family said I had to enter, even an Aussie guy that I played with said I should give it a go, so I chucked it on my credit card,” said McCarthy.
He started out at Hardelot in France and, after three rounds, faced the very real prospect of missing out at the first hurdle.
Then he shot an 8-under 63 to make it to second stage. Two weeks later he won the EuroPro Tour Championship, and with it a cracking first prize of £22,540, to get a spot on the Challenge Tour.
Again, it looked like the year was coming to a close, but he birdied the last two holes at Alenda in Q2 to grab one of four places available in a six-man play-off.
“This winter I was going to be delivering parcels for Amazon again. I still might do, but the win in the EuroPro Tour Championship at Desert Springs has given me some options and I can play a bit over the winter.”
Rotherham’s Jonathan ‘Jigger’ Thomson, who won his Tour card via this route last year, will head back to the Challenge Tour after a 72 for an eight-under-par total, eight shots off the pace.
He said: “It was a disappointing end to my first year on the European Tour, but lots learned going into next year and I will be back.”
Alejandro Cañizares and Zander Lombard shared the spoils on top of the leaderboard on -24, and as is customary in the case of a tie in the event, the duo were crowned joint winners with no play-off taking place.