TWENTY five-year-old Limerick golfer Cian McNamara will bid to join the gameâ€™s elite professionals when he competes in the third and final round of the European Tourâ€™s qualifying school in Spain this week.
McNamara, from Ballyclough, will be one of the golfers hoping to secure one of the gameâ€™s top prizes, membership of The European Tour. The leading 30 players (plus those tied for 30th place) after the final qualifying round will earn Category 11b Membership of The European Tour for next season.
Players who finish below 30th place will be eligible for Category 14 Membership of the European Tour, with reduced playing privileges, and Category 7 Membership of the Challenge Tour for the following season.
Players who miss the cut at the Final Stage will be eligible for Category 12 Membership of the Challenge Tour for the 2012 season.
The gruelling final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School tees off at PGA Catalunya in Girona, Spain this Saturday and continues until Thursday, December 15.
The Qualifying School is held in three stages - dependant on the individualâ€™s status - at a series of venues in the UK and Continental Europe. In the region of 1,000 competitors enter the Qualifying School each year, all aiming for a European Tour card, awarded to the top 30 and ties following the Final Stage. A player progressing through all three stages will have to play 252 holes under the most intense pressure.
Since 1976 the European Tour Qualifying School has been held at the end of each season to establish which players, not otherwise exempt, will gain their playing privileges on the tour for the following season through a qualifying competition.
McNamara finished tied-16th on -4 at the second stage of qualifying at Las Colinas Golf Club in Alicante at the weekend to advance to this weekendâ€™s final stage of qualifying. The former Junior British Open champion fired consistent rounds of 67, 73. 71 and 69 to secure his passage.
Among the leading stars names who have secured their Tour card through qualifying school at various stages of their careers are the likes of Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy, Darren Clarke, Ian Poulter and Colin Montgomerie. Cian McNamara was the youngest ever South of Ireland champion at just 18 years of age in 2004, before subsequently turning professional.
The Limerick golfer had successfully completed a four-year golf scholarship at East Tennessee State University before graduating with a Degree in Business Science specialising in Sports Management.
In winning the Shell Ireland sponsored South of Ireland title at Lahinch in 2004 Cian McNamara produced two stunning extra time comebacks. The Limerick ace beat big Greg Bowden of Hermitage at the 21st in the decider after seeing off Richard Kilpatrick in the semi-final.