Thursday 5 December 2019

Caldwell's Q-School success puts him back in big time after 11-year gap

Jonathan Caldwell was a Walker Cup team-mate of Rory McIlroy in 2007. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Jonathan Caldwell was a Walker Cup team-mate of Rory McIlroy in 2007. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Jonny Caldwell can't wait to cash in alongside old pals Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry after ending an 11-year wait to win back his European Tour card.

The Bangor native (35) won the 2007 European Amateur Team Championship alongside the two Major-winning superstars and went on to claim his tour card in 2008.

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But he failed to get a foothold on Tour, ending up behind the counter in golf retail before storming back into the big time at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona yesterday.

"I am absolutely over the moon," said Caldwell, who was teetering in 25th place after a bogey on the dangerous 15th on the Lakes Course before finishing brilliantly.

After knocking in a 25 footer at the par-five 16th, he hit the 18th in two and two-putted for another birdie, carding a four-under 67 to win the 19th of 28 cards on 13-under par.

"The golf was good all week, I just kept doing what I was doing and thankfully it was enough," said Caldwell.

Gavin Moynihan shot a two-under 69 and Niall Kearney a 71 to finish four shots outside the magic number on eight-under, securing Challenge Tour status.

But Caldwell can now look forward to playing for millions on the main tour over the next 12 months and he's hoping to make up for lost time.

"You can never say it's tough playing golf but it hasn't been easy in recent years and it means a huge amount," he said. "I am certainly better equipped and better focussed to take on what I have ahead of me than I was in 2009.

"Shane and Rory are at a different level to me but I'm looking forward to being on the European Tour and hopefully making a decent living at the game.

"I was working in the local Nevada Bob's for a long time but thanks to friends like Bill and Karen McAllister who gave me a chance to get out of the shop and play golf again, and Bernard Eastwood from Wirefox, who's been more than just a sponsor, I have been able to chase my dream."

Denmark's Benjamin Poke closed with a seven-under 64 to clinch an emphatic six-stroke victory over three-time European Tour winner Grégory Havret on 25-under-par.

Irish interest now turns to Lowry and McIlroy in this week's $8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai where the winner will take home at European Tour record $3 million top prize.

The top-five in the final Race to Dubai standings will split another $5 million from the Bonus Pool with $2m going to the new European No 1

Fourth-ranked Lowry knows he must finish no worse than tied second with one other to have a chance of a $5 million pay-day.

As for the in-form McIlroy, his scoring average of 68.42 in nine starts at Jumeirah Golf Estates makes him the favourite to win the event for the third time, even with a former rugby player Niall O'Connor standing in for caddie Harry Diamond.

"If there's any week where I don't have Harry on the bag, it's good it's this week," McIlroy said. "I feel like I could play this place blindfolded."

Seamus Power, meanwhile, rounds off 2019 in the PGA Tour's RSM Classic at Sea Island in Georgia seeking a win that would see him regain his card.

DP World Tour Championship, Live Sky Sports Golf, 7.0am

RSM Classic, Live Sky Sports Golf, 2.15pm

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