While most European golfing eyes will be on the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, mine are in Asia. Thailand to be precise, because the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage is taking place and 22 Europeans have made the trip to see if their careers will have a touch of eastern promise in 2009.
This Q School thing is just too fascinating for me not to keep watch in Asia. Having written my Q School book (Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School) about the European Tour’s version, I’m now hooked on all the others around the world to see who does what and where.
The US PGA Tour Q School was last November and Matthias Gronberg of Sweden was the only European of note to make it through while interesting American names who won Tour Cards included Notah Begay (Tiger’s old Stanford University pal and ambidextrous putter) and Chris Riley (Tiger’s favourite Ryder Cup partner in 2006).
Now it’s the turn of the Asian Tour and the Euros are doing rather well after day one. A total of 189 players will do battle on two different courses this week and, after five rounds of golf, 40th place and ties will get an Asian Tour Card for 2009. If you fail at the European Tour Q School, then Asia is often the next best alternative as players like Simon Dyson will tell you. He won in Asia long before he bounced onto the European Tour and found success.
Scotsman Ross Bain is in the lead in Thailand after an opening 68 with two Englishmen Ally Mellor and Yasin Ali joint 3rd and Matthew King, also of England, joint 13th. Among the other notable European players are Emanuele Canonica (23rd=) Mark Mouland (36th=), Andrew Marshall (63rd=) and James Hepworth (107th=). In addition, James Kamte of South Africa is also in Thailand; he’s tied 63rd as well.
Bain’s claim to fame is an appearance at the Open Championship in Carnoustie in 2006 when he was the leading Scot after all four rounds. The 33-year-old is based in Dubai and an Asian Tour regular. He only just missed keeping his Tour Card by finishing 71st last season in the order of merit over there (the top 60 retain Cards).
It’s early days in Thailand, but I’ll be keeping an eye on all 22 Europeans this week – and speaking to a few to see just what it’s like to face the crucible of Q School in Asia.
Ross Biddiscombe is the author of Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School