Ex-amateur Willett shines while Wolstenholme fades – Q School takes its toll as the three-round cut falls

The European Tour Q School is a rite of passage for pro tournament golfers; if you can succeed here, you can succeed anywhere or so they say. But every year, there are a growing number of young amateurs who use the event to test whether one of the pro tours – ultimately the Main Tour, obviously – is a possibility for them. Their plan is often to gain some Challenge Tour playing rights and then turn pro. Their chances, however, are usually between slim and none of a Tour Card at Final Stage.

Teenage sensation Oliver Fisher, a highly decorated young amateur did get through all 14 rounds and three Stages in 2006 before signing onto the pro ranks, but his story was truly exceptional.

This year, no fewer than 45 amateurs have lined up in the three First Stage tournaments this week; none of them so far have made much impression. Perhaps Danny Willett has the answer; he was world No 1 amateur until this June and then played his maximum seven invitation events on the 2008 European Tour calendar with honour, earning €85,000 for 173rd in the Order of Merit. Then it was time to focus on Q School and the 20-year-old shot 66 yesterday to take the lead in Fleesensee by two shots.

“Turning pro helped me learn how to grind out a score and I wanted to get my Tour invites out of the way so I could get them out of my head for Q School,” said Danny who missed an 8ft putt on the 18th for a back nine 29.

Only 24 of the 45 amateurs will play the fourth round of Final Stage today because there is a three-round cut, but many are making up the numbers now; only a handful will actually make Second Stage. Many of the amateur failures will just practice hard and turn up again next year, their dream undiminished.

Elsewhere, Guy Woodman (who features in the book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School – see Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School) hit the best score of the day – a 7 under par 64 – at Chart Hills where Sweden’s Oskar Henningsson still led. Oskar is another young man making sense of the crazy world of golf; the 23-year-old consciously took a step back from two unsuccessful seasons on Challenge Tour just to “get all parts of my game into shape because I wasn’t good enough”. At 17 under, he leads by two and could take the £15,000 winner’s cheque. The bad luck story in Kent was Darren Prosser from Stourbridge Golf Club who dropped four shots on his last hole to fall from tied 12th to tied 61st. Only the top 30 and ties progress in Kent.

In Scotland, the rain relented but the wind did not; Craig Goodfellow shot a 70 for a 3 under total and is still the only player under par. At four shots ahead, Craig needs to bottle his form this week and sprinkle it copiously on his game at regular intervals. Euan Little (another Golf On The Edge featured player) is second after shooting the same score. Gary Wolstenholme, however, had his chances jolted with a horrid 80 to be tied 43rd. Only the top 26 and ties progress from Dundonald and Gary will need to shoot near par to have any chance.

Someone will come bursting from the pack with an improbable score to reach Second Stage; Gary hopes it will be him.

Q School First Stage Leaders after 3 rounds
Dundonald – 1st Craig Goodfellow, 3 under; selected – tied 2nd Euan Little +1; tied 43rd Gary Wolstenholme +14
Fleesensee – 1st Danny Willett -18;
Chart Hills – 1st Oskar Henningsson -17; 2nd Paul Maddy -15; selected – tied 10th Guy Woodman -9; tied 61st Darren Prosser level.

Click on the link for more on Ross’ book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School