Friday 30 September 2016

Q-School wraps up with stories of joy in Girona

Published 19/11/2015 | 19:26

England's Matthew Southgate is back on the European Tour
England's Matthew Southgate is back on the European Tour

Ulrich van den Berg, Adrian Otaegui and Daniel Im were crowned joint-winners of European Tour's qualifying school final stage in Girona on Thursday.

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The trio, who finished on 18-under par after the six-day marathon at the PGA Catalunya Resort, were among 27 players to have been awarded their European Tour cards for 2016.

Englishman Matthew Southgate, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July, ended the day in tears after he booked his spot with a sixth-placed finish, while Ireland's Paul Dunne also secured his 2016 card.

Dunne, leader of this year's Open Championship after three rounds before finishing 30th, ended on 10-under par to be tied 13th.

The English trio of Ross McGowan, the overnight leader, David Dixon and Richard McEvoy all regained their places on the European Tour.

Edoardo Molinari,the Italian who formed part of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup winning team in 2010, carded the best front-nine score - his final nine having started on the 10th - to finish with a three-under par 69 to claim his card.

Southgate underwent surgery to remove cancerous cells in July which ruled him out of the game for two months. His two-year-old niece is also batting leukaemia.

"What's going on at home is very tough, but to be able to put a smile on my family's face, you just can't beat that," said Southgate.

"I've matured a lot through my situation, through the cards I have been dealt, but I've always been a fighter, and to get to the top level of golf again is absolutely fantastic. I am over the moon."

For South African Van den Berg, he will return to the top tier of European golf for the first time since earning his card here in 2007, before quitting the game following the death of his father.

"It was a long, hard slog for a 40-year-old today, " Van den Berg said. "I last did this Q-School in 2007 and I got through then, but I forgot how difficult it is.

"I got off to a great start today and then went through the middle of the round where things got a little bit tight, but I made a great birdie on 14. Unfortunately I missed a seven-footer on the last to win the event outright, but it's not about winning.

"After I last got my card, I started 2008 very nicely but unfortunately my dad got pancreatic cancer so I decided to quit The European Tour after about eight events and sat with him until he passed away. I got a medical exemption in 2009 but I was a broken man that year. I haven't been back since and this is my first time here since then so it's a great moral victory for me."

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