I was at the course and can vouch for their talent on a day when the wind was more than a little testing and the rough deep and nasty. Any criticism of the team’s performance in Merion should be forgotten and all the players forgiven. These lads all look like Tour players of the future – that’s what they want to be remembered for.
Gavin Dear of Scotland actually leads after day one of the First Stage tournament with a 5 under par score of 67 while England’s Chris Paisley is on 2 under. Matt Haines shot level par while star of the Walker Cup last week, Stiggy Hodgson, managed a 73 with Dale Whitnell and Wallace Booth both a shot further back.
That’s pretty good going by the young ‘uns who took a bit of a pounding in America and proves their potential is beyond doubt. All six have a great chance of making the top 30 at The Oxfordshire, which will mean progress to Second Stage in November.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Stiggy, just 20-years-old but who looks much younger because of his slight frame, found himself still in Walker Cup mode. “It was my own fault, really. I found myself going for all the pins like you should in matchplay whereas I should’ve played more cautiously to get a better score. It’s an amateur mistake, I suppose,” he said afterwards.
Stiggy’s final hole was a testimony to his chances of life on the European Tour. He tugged a drive into a fairway bunker and then found more sand 30 yards short of the pin. But his up-and-down for a par was a treat to watch and anyone with such touch around the greens has a chance to earn cash in the pro ranks.
Stiggy isn’t thinking of falling at Q School’s First Stage this week. “Not getting through would take it out of me quite a bit, but I expect to get to Second Stage. I admit I was a bit nervous at the start and when I got to 3 under after five holes, I started to be inconsistent. My putting saved me.”
How many of the six Walker Cuppers will get through? Don’t be surprised if they all manage it. I’ll have more from Q School First Stage throughout this week.
Ross Biddiscombe’s latest book is Golf On The Edge: Q School Complete and is available at www.golfontheedge.co.uk