Everything you need to know about Q School
It’s the longest week on the European Tour calendar, but one which could end a poor season on a big high or kick-start your career in style.
Mark Townsend has the lowdown on everything you need to know about Q School…
Is Q School a recent thing?
No, players have been going through the grind of Q School since 1976.
The likes of World No. 1 Justin Rose, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Padraig Harrington and Sandy Lyle have all been through its doors. Others, like Ian Woosnam, Ian Poulter and Miguel Angel Jimenez, have been regular visitors.
In total, 22 major champions have been to the School.
Is it all doom and gloom?
The general perception is that nobody wants to be there, it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and only a few survive at the end of it all. True enough there will be plenty who will have just had a stinker of a year or won’t have got enough starts or just missed out by a few quid on the Challenge Tour.
Then again there are a raft of players who will have battled through 144 holes just to get here and the possibilities, from a couple of months ago, will seem endless. Just to be here you have to be off-the-scale good and at least 25 players will have a big smile on their faces come next Thursday.
Who are exempt from First and Second Stages?
Aside from the real heroes of the early qualifying stages the relative big guns then join proceedings. These include:
- European Tour members ranked 111th to 145th
- Challenge Tour members ranked 16th to 45th
- Previous European Tour winners whose membership has expired
- Winners of the previous year’s Q School and Challenge Tour money list
Others who can also play are the top 75 of the European Tour career money list and leading Order of Merit entrants from the Asian, Australasia, Japan and Sunshine Tours.
How do you get to Q School?
If you’re doing it the hard way then you will have to come through the First and Second Stages. Should they pull it off they will have played 252 holes to achieve their dream.
Around 1,000 players will have started the process, the top 25 and ties will be the lucky ones at the end of it all. They will earn Category 17 membership of the European Tour for next year – this is below the category for the top 15 on the Challenge Tour.
Last year they added 10 players from those who just missed out on a card on the money list and added them into that year’s Q School category. So you had the top 10, followed by a possible 10 from the money list which meant the 11th player at Q School would actually start from 21st on the category.
This won’t happen any more so Category 17 simply means the top 25 and ties from Q School.
Does it really matter if you get your card?
This is all dependent on others but the average number of starts over the past decade has been around 18. So, if you play well and you get a good re-rank in the middle of the season, then you’ve got half a chance of having another go the following year. Needless to say the rankings are done in order of finishing positions so to finish 8th rather than 18th could get you a couple of crucial starts.
Without listing everyone who got their card in 2017, those who did it on the button got at least 21 starts, while some got more based on re-ranks and invitations.
Of those who missed out by a shot, the most amount of starts that any of them got was 10 so, basically, you’ve got no chance – unless do something special like Tom Lewis, who missed out by three 12 months ago but then won in Portugal and is off to Dubai next week.
Does it really matter if you make the cut?
Those players who finish outside the top 25 but make the cut after four rounds will receive a lower-ranking Category 22 membership – and that means, of course, fewer starts – but also a category on the Challenge Tour for 2019.
Miss the cut and your Challenge Tour category drops to 15 so, for a number of players, a good week and six rounds, but one that doesn’t finish with a European Tour card, could elevate yourself several rungs up the ladder. Think of the hundreds who play the EuroPro Tour or variety of mini tours to even get the very odd start on the Challenge Tour.
How many ‘graduates’ from 2018 retained their card?
Last year was a strange one as 33 players got their cards, they are ranked in the order that they finish so the higher you finish the more starts you might get.
Of those 33, six kept their cards this year which is actually up on other years when playing opportunities have been more scarce.
The stars from the 2018 school were Andrea Pavan, who is currently 32nd after his win in the Czech Republic, and Sam Horsfield, who is 49th, so both are bankers for Dubai. Both finished inside the top five at Q School, were the top two in the June re-rank and played in 27 events.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano made it from just 15 starts and squeezed through thanks to his T5 at Valderrama.
Who are the big names of this year?
The undoubted star of the show is Matteo Manassero, who seemed set to have played in various Ryder Cups by this stage of his career but is now at Q School for the first time after a season which saw him finish 122nd in the Race to Dubai.
Of his chances the 25-year-old, who has four wins to his name on the European Tour, told NCG: “It is like starting again. It’s Matteo 2.0. I’m starting the second half of my career. I started playing well quickly and with a lot of wins but now I am here competing and it’s going to be tough. I will be proud of myself if at the end of the week I have attained my Tour card for next year.
“It is going to be a challenging week, that’s for sure. There are going to be a lot of great players. It has happened, the path has brought me to Q School and going forward I will keep a smile on my face and play well. I will try to be mentally fresh and not put myself under too much pressure, especially in the earlier rounds so I can be prepared for the last few rounds.”
Other big tour names in the field include Richard Bland, Alejandro Canizares, Simon Dyson, Marcel Siem and Marc Warren.
What’s the entry fee?
To enter at the start of the process it will set you back €2,000 – roughly £1,750.
What are the courses like?
There are two courses at Lumine which plays host to Q School for the second year. The previous nine times it was held at PGA Catalunya.
Manassero sees the differences of the two courses, the Hills and the Lakes, like this: “It feels like you’re in a different country, the Hills course having more trees and undulations and the Lakes is a longer course where you must drive the ball well to give yourself more chances for birdies.
“I feel that the Hills course requires more strategy, hitting more irons off the tee and a few more wedge shots into the greens. Lumine has a mixture where you will play a wide variety of shots on both courses so you must be ready for any situation.”
NCG’s Mark Townsend and Steve Carroll will be in Spain to cover Q School next week. Keep an eye on everything you need to know from Lumine here.