So another year of European Tour’s Q School triumph and tragedy is over. There were the normal amount of tears, both of joy and despair at PGA Catalunya this year as 37 Tour cards were handed out while some very recognisable names saw their careers sink into the quicksand of the School.
As David Dixon, the winner on -21, was celebrating with fellow Brits Sam Hutsby, Andy Sullivan, Steven O’Hara and Gary Orr who all finished in the top eight, there were many others including Tour winners of the past who were submerged by the pressure.
Nick Dougherty – a Seve Trophy player and Tour champion just two years ago – ended his disastrous season with a torrid Q School in which he missed the cut after four rounds. Paul Broadhurst, Scott Drummond, Jarmo Sandelin, Joakim Haeggman, Oskar Henningsson and Alastair Forsyth were also in the same boat despite being past champions themselves.
So while Dixon (leading after the fifth round) could enter yesterday’s (Thursday) final 18 holes with a positive attitude (“My caddie and I talked last night and decided the attitude had to be ‘let’s go out and win it’. We thought that would take my mind on whatever else was going on.”), the more moving words came from the defeated like Dougherty who spoke a few days earlier.
Having made just one cut in 34 starts this season, Nick has been beyond desperate for many months and his form was unlikely to return for Q School, even though his wife – Sky Sports’ Di Stewart as was – walked the course with him in Spain. “At some point you’ve got to stop caring, but I just hope that’s soon because I can’t put up with doing this for much longer. [It seems like] there’s nothing I can do. If only it could come back in a day, that’s what you hope for when you’re playing week to week, that you’ll find a way somehow to take it back to how it was, but so far it hasn’t.”
There are few more heartfelt words spoken in a golf season than those uttered by the unsuccessful at Q School. But, for others like the recent Walker Cup hero Andy Sullivan who finished a highly creditable third, there is a world of possibility to look forward to. “I was a bit nervous [for the final round], if I’m honest. I felt the butterflies. But I felt ready to go and I really enjoyed it. It’s been a good year and this really tops it off.”
Those who enjoy Q School are the ones who gain the best cards, but the best stories are those who make it despite the odds. Scott Pinkney of the USA – from the Chubby Chandler stable – shot a fabulous -7 to move up 42 places and clinch a card on day six even after he found water on one hole. “A dream come true” were the best words the likeable American could come up with, but that’s as good a way as any to sum up winning a Q School Tour card.
Ross Biddiscombe is the author of two Q School books entitled Golf On The Edge. For more details on the 2011 event and the books, go to golfontheedge.co.uk