For the 309 players taking part in Second Stage of Q School in Spain this week, this is a very difficult few days – if they progress to Final Stage then they still have a chance of the elusive Tour Card (only 30 are given away, remember, so the odds are still long), but if they fail here then it’s game over for another year.
The precariousness of life as a Q School golfer is no better illustrated than at Second Stage. This is like the FA Cup semi final – the winners go on to possible glory, but no one remembers the losers. Failure here means no status on the European Tour next year; not even a chance of invites on the Challenge Tour. Second Stage surrender means a one-way ticket to limbo-land. Yes, they can play EuroPro or Alps Tour or PGA Regional tournaments and the rest of the low-level stuff, but once you’ve set you sights on the Main Tour, such ideas are worse than a nightmare.
So guys like Santiago Luna (my god, he won on the Tour 12 years ago and is now staying trim for the Senior Tour) who lead after Day One at Costa Ballena are happy men. Santiago is no stranger to Q School (this is his 10th visit) and certainly has the temperament to go all the way back to the Tour. He still gets a few invites for Main Tour events, so his worst-case-scenario this week is not as bad as most, but no one turns their nose up at a 66.
More interesting, however, are the young guns going for it this year. Chris Wood (5th in the Open and now tipped for greatness) had a solid start with 70 at Montenmedio while one of my favourites Guy Woodman – one of the seven golfers featured in my Q School book – is among three leaders at this new venue following a 67. Guy’s never been to Final Stage, so this year could be his lucky one. I know he’s excited and trying to contain himself; meanwhile, I’m hugely excited and can’t contain myself because I know how much it would mean to him. Q School is like that – it’s too damned emotional sometimes!
Chris Wood, meanwhile, is more favoured than Guy. Wood says: “I’m not nervous and I’ve learned so much in my seven tournaments on the Main Tour this year.” He’s certainly the form player at Montenmedio and should go through. Someone else odds on to progress is his fellow newly-minted pro Danny Willett who managed a 71 at Sherry; a very decent beginning for the young ‘un from Yorkshire.
But for all the fireworks that will be going off this week, a darkness has descended on some bright hopes already. Zane Scotland (a twentysomething with loads of talent) carded an awful 82 at Montenmedio and is virtually cast adrift from the competition after just 18 holes; David Griffiths (such a prospect two years ago) is up against it with a 74 at Arcos Gardens; and Lloyd Saltman (one of last year’s top Walker Cup players) is no better off at Sherry after a 75.
Yes, it’s another nerve-wracking week at Q School – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Click on the link for more on Ross’ book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School