'There are massive ups and downs – it's unlike any other tournament'

The Scoop

Richard McEvoy is no stranger to Q School. Here the European Open champion shares his generally happy memories of the longest week of the year

At this time of year Richard McEvoy is generally preparing himself for, hopefully, six rounds of Q School. In a 17-year professional career he has been nine times to generally try and put right in the space of a week what has gone wrong for the previous rest of the year.

Now though things are quite a bit different. This year the 39-year-old is playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge down in Sun City and a big week here will elevate him further to the end-of-season party in Dubai for the top 60. His previous best is 101st in 2010.

All this of course is down to doing what few others have done this season, namely taking down Bryson DeChambeau down the stretch in Germany. It took McEvoy 285 starts and it was one of the feel-good stories of 2018.

He’ll no doubt have half en eye on events down in Lumine where a lot of familiar faces will be doing battle to make the 2019 season a much brighter one…

You’ve been to Q School nine times and come through it six times, including winning it at your first attempt 15 years ago. What’s your secret?

Well I’ve been there plenty of times! Percentage-wise getting my card it is pretty strong. I started off well and since then I have had a lot of confidence going there. The six-round thing has always helped me, it’s a long week and the experience I’ve had there has always been good though I’ve missed out by a shot and you then look back on how you could have saved that shot, and you see others that are in the same boat, and it is devastating.

If you haven’t had a card before then that is the dream so there are some massive ups and downs and it is very unlike any other tournament. Thankfully I won’t be going back for at least the next couple of years.

What was 2016 like when you were looking great and then things went south?

I was down and out. I played beautifully all week for five and a half days and then didn’t get the score on the front nine on the final day that I should have and then dropped a couple of shots. I struggled with my swing on the last day and I hit a poor tee shot down the left on 17 and was six inches out of bounds.

I actually played it OK with the second ball and just missed a birdie but I then thought I was out of it. I hit another poor tee shot at the last into the rough, managed to get it in left-hand bunker pin high and when I got to the green I noticed that the cut-off was 5-under. The double had let everyone else in and I now needed to get up and down. I’m a scoreboard watcher, I always have been.

I played a lovely trap shot to five feet and holed a slippery downhill left-to-right putt to make it. It was all nerve-wracking but I knew I had done it before.

How do you come away feeling from a week like that?

Pure relief. The last few years been tough with starts with the Q School category but this season has been pretty good. If you finished in the top 10 in Spain then you will have got into a few Rolex events so you’ll have had a proper go at it. This year if you had a good start and got a half decent re-rank then you’ll have played quite a bit.

How different are your plans now?

I’ve never had this type of opportunity. Before the Challenge Tour win I thought I’d play the European Open anyway with my Challenge Tour ranking and then play the rest of the year on the Challenge Tour.

It’s lovely to play for the bigger prize funds but the bigger picture was 2019 and giving myself the best opportunity to have the best ranking rather than look at prize money. So Germany was going to be my last European Tour event unless I had a really good week which I then did. It’s been pretty life-changing.

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