You can’t really understand the special drama of a Second Stage Q School unless you are there. I know that the richest tournaments in the world provide massive tensions and incredibly memorable moments for millions of golf fans on TV and at the events. But to see 80 players – good, aspiring, veterans and the not-yet-good-enough – take part in this tournament that decides their livelihood for a whole year…well, it’s just unique.
I spent four days at Montemedio following the highs and lows of just one of the four Second Stage events and, in the end, it was packed with stories: Zane Scotland (one of Britain’s top talents) was coming back from a serious wrist injury and blew out on day one; Stuart Little, one of the best veterans at any Second Stage event, could not consistently break par and fell away before the final day; Jonathan Lomas, another ex-Tour pro with bags of experience, was well inside the cut mark until a 77 over the last 18 holes to blow his chances.
And then there were the successes: Santiago Luna (far too far into his 40s to be a serious Tour player again, surely?) won at Arcos Gardens; fellow Spaniard Jordi Garcia Pinto did the same at Costa Ballena; Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay (just how cosmopolitan is the European Tour?) triumphed at Montenmedio; and Julien Guerrier hung on to top the list at Sherry Golf.
But the best success stories were below the winner’s podium: hats off to Lloyd Saltman (the young Scot with the ex-Walker Cup swagger) and Chile’s Benjamin Alavarado who won seven and eight-man playoffs respectively to sneak into Final Stage of Q School that starts in Catalunya on Thursday. Alavardo booked his ticket with an eagle on the first playoff hole – that’s great golf under pressure!
Young English pretenders to the European Tour – Chris Wood of Bristol and Danny Willett of Yorkshire – both made it through (although not as convincingly as some of their supporters would’ve liked).
But my personal favourite success was Guy Woodman of Stoke Park. Yes, I know that you know already that he’s featured in my Q School book, but the fellow’s a walking storybook. This time he got panicky when two drives went hooking left in his third round and he lost two balls and almost his place in the top 20 at Montenmedio. It turned out the head of his driver was loose (something he only confirmed on the morning of day four) and he had to borrow one from a friend to complete the tournament.
No worries, though, as a par 72 nailed his first ever place at Final Stage and he’s knocking the ball so well that he could now go all the way to the Tour. Now that would be another great story for a book, I think!
Click on the link for more on Ross’ book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School