Saturday 16 December 2017

NoTour spot for Kearney as cheat slurs rattle Saltman

Brian Keogh in Girona

As Niall Kearney finished nine shots behind the card winners at the European Tour Qualifying School finals, Scotland's Elliot Saltman vigorously defended himself against "disgusting" allegations labelling him a cheat.

Saltman (28) and his younger brother Lloyd (25) created history at PGA Golf de Catalunya when they became the first siblings to win their cards at the same 'school'.

But, while Elliot was relieved to finish just inside the top 30 and ties on the nine-under limit after a brave 70, he was incensed by the growing number of comments on the internet accusing him of cheating.

He has been at the centre of controversy since he was disqualified at the M2M Russian Challenge Cup in September for replacing his ball incorrectly on the green.

Playing partners Marcus Higley and Stuart Davis complained that he had marked his ball at "eight o'clock" and replaced it in the six o'clock position.

The player accepted the penalty at the time, but now bitterly regrets doing so having become a victim of a whispering campaign on internet sites in recent weeks.

"I am disgusted to be honest," he said in reference to the comments about him on the web. "It affects not only me, but my family. Not one player has come up to me and asked me my side of the story.

"I don't want to be labelled as a cheat. Nobody wants that reputation. The sooner this gets sorted out the better."

As a result of the outcry among his peers, Saltman has been asked to appear in front of an informal meeting of the European Tour Players Committee to explain his case and discover if further action will be taken against him.

"I thought it was dead and buried, but I am 100pc positive that we will get this resolved. I have an informal meeting with the Tournament Players Committee and I will be more than happy to explain my case," he said.

Addressing the allegation, Saltman added: "They said I had marked the ball at eight o'clock and replaced it at six o'clock. Marcus Higley said I did it twice and Stuart Davis said it was once and then later said that he wasn't sure.

"I have always marked the ball at six o'clock and replaced it correctly. I accepted what was said at the time (of the disqualification) because I was in shock and I didn't want to be labelled a cheat. I am sorry now that I didn't stand up for myself."

David Garland, Director of Tour Operations for The European Tour, said: "Elliot Saltman was disqualified during this year's M2M Russian Challenge Cup. That disqualification has been debated by the European Tour Tournament Committee and further discussions will take place with the player himself before any further comment is made."

England's Simon Wakefield -- who ended with a 67 -- won the school by two shots from Spain's Carol del Moral on 21-under-par as 34 players claimed cards on nine-under-par or better.

Kearney (22), who was already guaranteed a full Challenge Tour card after making the four-round cut, finished 67th on level par after a closing 72 that summed up his week.

"I had loads of birdies and eagles, but there were too many bogeys and double bogeys," he said after a round that featured an eagle, three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey. "I'm disappointed, but there are a lot of positives to take away because I hit a lot of good shots.

"I struggled off the tee, but that should be easy to fix and I have a full category on the Challenge Tour and the chance to play in four or five main tour events, so it's perfect. Next year the plan is to get my card through the top 20 in the Challenge Tour. Hopefully, I won't be back here again."

Irish Independent

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