Q-School = drama and this year was no exception, especially for Jenahura professional Richard McEvoy. With two holes to play, McEvoy looked certain to secure his full European Tour card before disaster struck on 17. A hooked tee shot hit a tree and agonisingly crossed an out of bounds line that few knew existed! A buggy ride back to the tee and a resulting double bogey left Rich standing on the 18th tee believing only a birdie would be good enough to regain his card. As his second shot nestled into the greenside bunker other scores meant that a par would be good enough. A brilliant bunker shot somehow came up 5 feet short of the hole. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife before McEvoy cooly slotted his downhill putt straight into the middle of the hole and with it, his playing rights for 2017.
Incredibly, it was McEvoy’s 6th successful visit to ‘the school’ – a European Tour record and one that he would probably prefer not to hold!
Just three weeks ago, Richard lost his European Tour playing privileges despite a closing round of 64 in the Portugese Masters. It left him 124th on the Race to Dubai and facing the prospect of playing Challenge Tour golf next season.
Last Saturday, a sparkling opening round of 63 (-7) on the Tour course at PGA Catalunya included six birdies and an eagle had our man at the top of the leaderboard on day one. He followed up with a 69 (-3) on day two on the tougher Stadium course to maintain number one spot.
The players woke up to strong winds on day three. It was a day to grit teeth and avoid disasters which McEvoy duly did, carding 15 pars in his round of 71 (+1) to remain in a tie for first place.
Conditions could not have been better for days four and five but an ice cold putter prevented Rich from moving further ahead.
And so to the final day in pursuit of overnight leader, former Ryder Cup star – Edoardo Molinari who started the day on -14. Paired with two of England’s brightest young stars –Tom Lewis and Eddie Pepperell, the three players started the day on -9. In truth, McEvoy struggled with his swing all day and had to rely on sheer will and heart. He turned in 39 (+3) which left him perilously close to the chasing pack heading into the back nine. A great up and down on 10 was followed by a two putt par on 11. A majestic second shot on the Par-5 12th set-up the chance of an eagle but his 10 foot putt agonisingly slipped past the hole. Nonetheless it was a tap-in birdie and gave him a little more breathing space. A bad bogey on 13 was followed by another good par save on the difficult 14th. A brilliant third to the par-5 15th almost disappeared for an eagle three but another kick in birdie restored a slim cushion in his quest to gain Category 17 status for next years Race to Dubai. Another gutsy par save from 10 feet on 16 took Richard to the 17th tee on -7 before the late drama unfolded.
A mightily relieved, smiling McEvoy said “I can’t quite believe it. I played terrible today but just kept grinding. My swing hasn’t felt great all week but I dug deep down the stretch to keep my hopes alive. I hit a great bunker shot on 18 but it just didn’t release down the hill. To have any chance, I knew I had to make it. I hit a great putt and was delighted to find out it was good enough. I’m excited now to be heading to South Africa in a couple of weeks time for the first tournament in the Race to Dubai (2017).
Exhausted but exilarated, Richie will head home to Essex with his infectious smile and is looking forward to spending a well earned week at home with his wife Jo and his cherished boys Oli and Alex.
Congratulations Rich from Team Jenahura and all our Patrons and Sponsors.