A four under par round by Gary Murphy ensured tied 16th place on the final day of European Tour Qualifying at the PGA Golf de Catalunya near Girona on Thursday. The marathon journey of the past six days ended in success with the Kilkenny man regaining his card exactly ten years after winning it for the first time.
Murphy was the only Irish player on the European Tour not to retain his card for 2010 having failed to finish inside the top 115 in the Race to Dubai money list. At the Australian Masters last month Murphy needed a top 15 finish to secure an automatic place but ended up in a tie for 36th. Rather than rely on invites for the 2010 season he decided to go to back to qualifying school.
Gary Murphy started out in the golfing scene as a caddy when he was 11 years old and was also a keen soccer player, having trials for Ireland’s Under-13 and Under-15 teams. However, he decided to concentrate on his golf and went on to win the Irish Amateur Closed Championship in 1992. He turned professional in 1995.
In 1997 he won the Asian Tour qualifying school and played two seasons on that tour in addition to competing on the second tier European Challenge Tour. In 1999 he finally won his European Tour card at the final qualifying school and in 2005 went on to win the Azores Open.
Simon Thornton was the other Irish qualifier to secure his Tour card in Girona after a one under par round on the last day proved enough to hold on to a Tied 26th place.
After ending the first nine on level par, following a bogey and a birdie, the Newcastle resident then birdied the 10th and 17th. But a bogey on the last hole of the six day marathon nearly undid all the good work of the previous day.
In the end he walked off the course with an aggregate of 480 strokes and a 1 under par total score which was enough to secure him automatic playing rights on the European Tour for the first time.
Following four previous attempts over last the four years Thornton finally found fortune this time around.
Niall Kearney of Royal Dublin signalled his intent and talent all week despite failing to earn his tour card on the first attempt. A final round of 2 under left him 17 places adrift of the mark with an aggregate of 421 and 7 under for the event.
For 2010 Niall Kearney is eligible to play on The European Challenge Tour.
England's Simon Kahn emerged the overall winner but not after a very mixed day as he signed for a triple bogey, 3 bogeys and 3 birdies to give him a 2 over round for a total of 20 under. He was one shot ahead of fellow English man, Simon Hutsby on 19 under and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher on 18 under.
Since 1976, The European Tour Qualifying School has been held at the end of each season to establish which players, not otherwise exempt, will gain their playing privileges on the Tour for the following season through a qualifying competition.
This years qualifying was no different to other years as it again delivered drama and disappointment in equal measure. Amongst the names returning for the 2010 season after an absence are Scotland’s Andrew Coltart and Scott Drummond, along with the Swedish pair, Jarmo Sandlin and Patrik Sjoland.