In the first of a new column, Tour Chatter, our man among the big leagues takes us through the eccentricities that go hand in hand with the six-round slog
When someone says the words Q School my mind immediately flashes to a tousle-haired Scandinavian who went from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of a few yards.
Having missed a short putt at the 9th at Lumine’s Lakes Course he then managed to get rid of the offending ball with a magnificent piece of hand-eye coordination before, seconds later, stopping to perform an over-exaggerated swing move, now without a club, in front of the clubhouse window.
And with his swing soon sorted he was back on his merry way with his spikes clacking away on the concrete.
In a nutshell there you have Q School. If you’re going to go the whole way and play six rounds and 108 holes then there will be some extreme lows and some even more extreme acts of behaviour.
But the prize, literally, is an outstanding one. Francesco Laporta topped the Challenge Tour by over €60,000 from Calum Hill, earning €216,000 from his 21 starts. A week earlier Hugo Leon, from the same number of starts, just missed out on his European Tour spot for 2020, down in 116th spot, but pocketed over €270,000.
Aside from the perks, the courses and the exalted company that you’ll be keeping the step up is huge. You might well be back at Q School in 12 months’ time but you’ll be a lot better off – and then there’s the sponsorship packages that only come about when you’re playing at the top level.
Players are at Q School for a collection of very mixed reasons, some will have come from nowhere through the First and Second Stages and will therefore be on a career high, others will be wondering how on earth things have come to pass that they’re even here in the first place.
But they’re all here; in the same hire cars, in the same hotels, eating at the same restaurants, asking the same questions of where each other ate the previous evening and wondering the same imponderable, at length, of what the short-term future holds for them.
For one or two this will be a last throw of the dice, for others they will have turned pro a few weeks ago in the vain hope of getting some of their £1,800 entry fee back. It’s a huge outlay for a good bulk of the field and making it past the fourth round guarantees a very welcome £800. For the player on the top of the pile it will be the hardest-earned winner’s cheque that he will ever get his hands on.
As players and onlookers alike, the first easily outnumber the second, we’re all on a loop. For four days the players are split over two courses and everyone goes off within two hours of each other so you’re seeing the same faces, doing the same nods and watching the same putting drills. It’s as simultaneously lonely as it is comforting.
For a few stolen days on the Costa Daurada we’ve all been institutionalised into staring blankly at a wall of numbers on the oversized leaderboard and trying to tell one another that everything’s going to be alright.
As for our Scandinavian friend, sadly he never made it through but, safe to say he’s back this year for more.
I’ll be at Q School from Monday. If you have any questions, you can contact me on Twitter.