Winning Mentality: Q School
Bunker ambassador Paul Streeter recalls his memories of the most dreaded week of the year.
I’ve done both qualifying schools for the European and Legends Tour and I can safely say that there is more pressure at the latter.
It was 2000 when I played in my second Q School for the European Tour and I had to come through two stages before even making it to Sotogrande and San Roque for the final. The first pre-qualifier was at Manchester GC before advancing to Peralada in Spain. I’ll always remember that week as it was the only time that I ever played in an event that was curtailed to three rounds because of wind.
I was inside the mark after three rounds and then played nine holes in level par, which really helped my cause in those conditions, but the final round never got finished. To give you an idea of how windy it was we were hitting 9-irons off tees into the wind on the range, and hitting it as high as we could, and the wind would blow it back over our heads! Some would come back to your feet but every now and then you would get one that would go 20 yards behind you.
In the final I led after the first day on -5, the other co-leader actually missed the cut, and I was always there or thereabouts. I made the four-round cut and I knew there was a leaderboard on the 17th , the top 35 would get cards and I was one worse but I made a 20-footer for birdie which meant I needed a par down the last at San Roque where the last two rounds were played.
I hit a 2-iron off the tee, 7-iron on and rolled it down to six feet, leaving a downhill left-to-right putt. I remember turning round to my wife and saying ‘this for my card then’… and knocked it in.
I got the last card and got 19 starts for the 2001 season, Justin Rose was 9th.
Had I not got my card I would have still got a category and a ranking to play the European Tour whereas on the Legends Tour there are five cards and if you finish sixth you get nothing.
I was nervous back then but I had never had a full card before so it was a lot tougher for someone who’s just lost their card after 10 years. On the senior tour, because of the lack of any playing opportunities if you didn’t make it, I found it a lot tougher.
At my first senior Q School I had to go through Stage 1. I was always just outside the mark and I finished with my best round of the week and birdied my last hole so, although I missed out on a play-off by one, it wasn’t a case of blowing it late on
In 2018 I didn’t have to do the first stage as I had qualified for the Senior British Open at Royal Porthcawl and that saved a bit of energy. With five holes to play I was comfortably inside the mark and then holed a 25-footer for par at the 15th and I thought that was massive. I then stood on the 16th tee, normally the 18th at Vale da Pinta, and hit my tee shot what looked like out of bounds so hit a provisional.
Some mates from the over-48s tour were following me and one said he first might be alright but I had seen it clear a six-foot fence and bounce on a road. A spotter had her arm in the air and she pointed to my ball and there it was with my initials on it – she said it had bounced twice and then jumped back over the fence!
You always need a bit of luck and that was mine. On the next I could just make out the colours on a leaderboard – red being under par, green level and blue over par – and I could see fifth place was blue and I was one under at the time.
After three-putting 17 I hit a fantastic second to the last from the rough and said to my wife that I could three-putt this and still get my card – thankfully I knocked in the 20-footer.
My good mate David Shacklady had also done it so that was fantastic – he two-putted from a position where, if you had 10 balls you might two-putt it once. The year before he had bogeyed the last to miss out by one.
It is such an odd week. Angel Franco needed a bogey down the last but doubled it before losing the play-off to Mauricio Molina while Rafa Gomez began the week with an 80 and won the whole thing by four!
I was lucky to be playing with Rafa and John Kemp, who I’ve known for years, in the final round. Most of the guys are very easy going and encouraging and it helped that they were both playing well as that really helps to keep you going, if someone is choking like a dog it can drag you down a little bit.
It sounds simple but you just have to play the course and you can’t think ahead to the bigger picture. Then, when you are coming down the last few holes, you know what you have to do, be it aggressive or defensive. You will have a score in mind but that’s as far as it goes.