The torrid weather in western Scotland was unrelenting on day two of the First Stage Q School tournament at Dundonald. When you think that some players have travelled from as far as balmy Los Angeles, 6,000 miles away, to play in 25mph gusts of chilly autumn wind with horizontal precipitation (basically, almost constant heavy rain punctuated with heavy showers), it was no surprise that both spirits were low and energy at the end of the day. “Like going five rounds with Mike Tyson,” said one player.
In these conditions, withdrawals were inevitable and included the poetically-named Franny Suits III, one of the eight young Americans in the field. You see, the European Tour Q School really is the most cosmopolitan and toughest in the world.
The 21-year-old’s main problem was that he has spent much of his recent golfing life in Florida, and when he finished day one at 13-over par he confessed to being numb with cold.
On day two yesterday, Franny caved in after 9 holes (his score at the time was “around 50”, according to a playing partner) and walked away from Scotland. It was his first visit, but not the most cost effective; his £1,250 Q School entry fee meant the experience cost him £46 per hole.
Most of his U.S. colleagues faired little better, although you have to admire their guts for making the trip. Perhaps the best summation of their challenge here so far came from 29-year-old Thomas Foley from Indiana whose 36-hole total was a massive 29-over par (and he wasn’t the worst!). Despite all the impossible challenge, Thomas had a huge smile on his face in the scorer’s office after his 84 yesterday and was actually loving his first Scottish visit. I think he was better prepared than the other Americans because his home course is a 7,800yd monster aptly called Purgatory Golf Club.
To be fair to those wracking up lousy scores, the conditions were best described as grotesque; the kind of rain and wind that would keep us amateurs at the bar all day. But if you thought Q School golfers weren’t up to playing great golf then look at and 29-year-old Jason Levermore from Clacton-on-Sea. His 5-under par 67 in some of the worst conditions would have beaten 95% of any pros yesterday; no one else got within three shots and Jason even double-bogeyed his last hole. Even more crazy was that he shot 82 just 24 hours earlier. “I guess I learned a lot from day one and hit much better tee shots,” he said.
Day one leader Craig Goodfellow kept his lead and is still the only player under par, but some recognised names are bearing down including Warren Bladon, 1996 British amateur champ, and Scot Euan Little, one of the most experienced ex-Tour players on view. Newly-minted pro Gary Wolstenholme is settling to his task and is on 6-over, good for tied 20th. The top 26 and ties go through to Second Stage from Dundonald.
While the weather in Scotland was cruel, the sun shone in Fleesensee, Germany. There was a second successive 62 yesterday, this one by Swede Jens Dantrop, which, pushed him into a two-shot lead. England’s Danny Willett managed a very fine 64 to move up to third.
In Chart Hills, where I’m off to tomorrow, another Swede Oskar Henningsson kept his lead while 2007 Walker Cuppers Rhys Davies and Jamie Moul were among the chasing pack. In Kent and Germany, the top 30 and ties progress.
Thursday is the day of the third round cut in First Stage Q School tournaments, so it’s the initial heartbreak day for about 30% of this week’s hopefuls. But if Jason Levermore can improve by 15 shots in one day, then there were dozens of players dreaming last night of a similar turn-around.
Q School First Stage Leaders
Dundonald – Craig Goodfellow, – 1; selected – Warren Bladon +2, Euan Little +3, Gary Wolstenholme +6
Fleesensee – Jens Dantorp -15; selected – Danny Willett -12, Philip Jacobsen, -10
Chart Hills – Oskar Henningsson, -12; selected – Rhys Davies -9, Jamie Moul -7
Click on the link for more on Ross’ book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School