In this country, we are quick to shout “The British are coming!” when sportsmen or women from our tiny nation excel in foreign lands. But the message from First Stage of the European Tour Q School this year is rather different. “The Yanks are coming!” would be a more appropriate sentence to yell from the golfing rafters.
Last year while covering the whole 13-round Q School event once again, I did notice a few more young Americans in the early qualifying rounds, but only one – Nathan Smith from California – made it to Final Q School Stage in Spain. And even Nathan didn’t get his Tour Card and had to settle for a season on the Challenge Tour.
However, Nathan has not exactly set the Challenge Tour on fire – 84th in the rankings right now – so it’s rather a surprise to see his fellow countrymen over here in such force. Half a dozen Yanks began at The Oxfordshire First Stage venue this week and one – Ryan Blaum, formerly of Duke University (the same college as Smith, by the way) – shot into the lead after day two.
It was less windy in the heart of England course, but a 63 was more than decent by anyone’s standards and Blaum, a tall, elegant young man, leads by three from Graeme Clark of England.
Not only that, but Ryan Baca and Jonathan Moore also of the USA are tied 7th and 19th respectively. Moore even has Pete Coleman on his bag – now that’s a commitment to excellence not always seen by young British golfers at this stage of Q School who often have friends, golf chums or even their mums pulling their golf trolleys.
Of course, to play well in September at Q School means very little. Surviving Second Stage in late November will guarantee you a Challenge Tour card while only making the top 30 at Final Stage will provide the keys to gravy train that is the full European Tour. Now if Mr Blaum gets that far, then he’s got my undying respect.
And will he be battling for a Tour Card with our own GB & Ireland Walker Cup team members of 2009? Well, on a less windy day yesterday, the ex-teammates rather fell backwards as scoring went lower.
First day leader Gavin Dear of Scotland shot a 1 over par and dropped to tied 13th. Chris Paisley (66), Dale Whitnell (69), Stiggy Hodgson (70), Matt Haines (71) and Wallace Booth (71) all improved their chances, but none of them are safe just yet.
36 more holes of Q School torture will teach them a little about whether or not they are going to cope with life as a professional golfer.
Ross Biddiscombe’s latest book is Golf On The Edge: Q School Complete and is available at www.golfontheedge.co.uk