A flawless final round of 66 (-5) ensured a return to the big time for Jenahura star James Heath at European Tour Q-School earlier today. Of course a scorecard never tells the full story of the drama that unfolded before his final putt on the 9th hole.
Q-School Final Stage is played over six rounds – golf’s survival of the fittest. Just like the roller coasters that provide a fitting backdrop to the Lumine Lakes course, every competitor has a story to tell. For Heath, his own tale started to unravel on the back nine in his penultimate round. Having played exquisite golf from tee to green the putts continued to burn the edges of the hole before three dropped shots in as many holes put a serious dent in his hopes. Not a bit of it, three perfect shots into the par-5 18th. Eagle. Books balanced, 9-under par and a terrific boost to take into the final day.
Day six and with so much at stake for so few, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife in and around the Lumine clubhouse. Starting on the 10th hole, Heath reeled off six straight pars and for a brief moment it had the feeling of deja vu on the greens. A rare wild tee shot on the par-5 16th followed by an indifferent recovery that finished behind a tree and our man was in trouble. Then the magic…. A brilliant recovery to the back of the green followed by a 45-foot bomb. The most unlikely of birdies was followed by another at 17 after almost holing his tee shot and then a two-putt birdie on 18 moved James to 12-under, at this stage within one of the all important Top-25 qualifying mark.
Another near hole out from the fairway on the Par-4 third resulted in a 4th birdie of the day and now, crucially within the projected qualifying score. Pars followed at the 4th and 5th before another on six having missed the green, holing a nasty 5-footer down the hill to keep the momentum going. At this stage, -13 was looking touch and go. A slightly pulled tee shot on eight left James with no option but to play away from the tightly tucked flag and some 50 feet from the hole. With a deft touch and nerves of steel however he rolled his birdie attempt to the hole side for another par.
And so to the coup de gras… a nailed driver split the ninth fairway, leaving Heath with no more than seventy yards to the hole. Fiercely focused, his exquisite pitch almost went straight in, finishing 18 inches from the hole and when he tapped in for a 5th birdie of the day his European Tour playing rights were secured in magnificent style closing on 14-under par and a tie for 18th.
An overjoyed and emotional Heath said “I can’t quite believe it. Coming down the stretch I just had to stay focused on the job in hand because I honestly thought 13-under was touch and go. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.. Having my brother Mike on the bag and my father here supporting me is very special… this is just the start!