Saturday 25 November 2017

Duval underlines game's fickle nature

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

DAVID DUVAL, the 2001 British Open champion, shares a common link with a host of Irish professionals -- they are all banking on performances in the Qualifying School to gain a place on Tour in 2012.

The only difference is that Duval, who celebrated his 40th birthday on November 9, has fought his way through the second stage of PGA Tour school to reach the final qualifying series next month.

Duval, former world No 1, has tried hard to get his game back to the level he reached 10 years ago, but won only $400,654 from nine outings in America this year, and finished 152nd on the PGA Tour money list.

He still has a shot at getting his playing rights for next year, but Duval's experience underlines the fickle nature of professional golf.

Duval has banked nearly $19m in his career. He won a Major plus 19 Tour events, 13 of them on the PGA Tour, but his story is a reminder that there are no guarantees for anyone in the play-for-pay ranks.

However, that won't deter the 14 Irish lads who are among 194 golfers booked for the second stage of the European Tour Q-School.

Four venues in Spain will host the tournament from from Friday, December 2 to Monday, December 5, and around 80 places are available for the final qualifying event from December 10-15 at PGA Catalunya Resort.

Nobody needs to tell players such as Noel Fox, Niall Kearney, Colm Moriarty, Michael McGeady and Jonathan Caldwell about the difficulty of the whole qualifying process, but they remain optimistic and currently are honing their games in preparation for next week.

In that respect, the Titleist Winter Series held each Tuesday at Portmarnock Links for professionals and elite amateurs, has helped to sharpen up their competitiveness.

Des Smyth and Damien McGrane have played in the Series, as have Fox, Kearney, Moriarty, McGeady, Caldwell, and a host of former amateur internationals including Paul O'Hanlon, Cian Curley, and Tim Rice.

Irish Region No 1 Barry Trainor and fellow pros John Kelly, Damien Mooney, and Eamonn Brady are also among the regular competitors.

The events are played off the back tees and some of the scoring has been particularly good.

Niall Kearney shot a 66 recently, while Paul O'Hanlon was a weekly winner with 69.

Ireland's second-stage qualifying school players for next week are:

At Los Calinas: David Higgins, Niall Kearney, Brendan McCarroll, Cian McNamara, Aaron O'Callaghan (Baton Rouge, USA).

El Valle: Jonathan Caldwell, Chris Devlin, Stephen Grant (the former Shamrock Rovers player), Mark Staunton, Niall Turner.

South Course La Manga: Noel Fox, Michael McGeady, Colm Moriarty, Neil O'Briain.

Irish Independent

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