THE toughest test in European Tour Qualifying School history? Judging by the quality of the field that embarks on the six-round marathon at PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain today, the 2012 version could well turn out that way.
Included in the 156-man field are former Ryder Cup stars, top tournament winners and five Irishmen, all chasing one of 25 precious Tour cards for the 2013 season.
Kelly, one of the top teaching pros in the country, has experienced the pressure of Q-School finals and reckons Higgins has the quality to come through this torrid marathon test of golf. "Look what he did at Wentworth ( BMW PGA championship last May). He finished top 10 in one of the strongest fields in Europe," Kelly said.
"He's not spectacular off the tee but his short game around the greens is very good."
Higgins is joined by Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin), Chris Devlin (Team Ireland), Simon Thornton (Team Ireland), Gareth Shaw from Lurgan, and Muskerry GC assistant pro Peter O'Keeffe, who got a late call-up as an alternate.
The Irish are evenly divided on day one – Higgins, O'Keeffe and Shaw play the Stadium Course today, while Devlin, Thornton and Kearney are on the Tour Course.
Their first goal is to make the four-round cut, after which the top 72 and ties go through to the last 36 holes.
The task is not impossible, but the opposition is formidable with a field featuring 33 former Tour winners.