The success of the 2009 European Senior Tour Qualifying School graduates will provide the inspiration for a new set of hopefuls when Pestana Golf Resort, on Portugal’s Algarve, hosts the 17th edition from November 16-19, 2009.
South African Bertus Smit, who finished second behind Jimmy Heggarty at last year’s Qualifying School Final, leads the 18 graduates so far in 2009 after his maiden victory in the lucrative Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open.
Smit is currently sixth in the Order of Merit having amassed €110,726 in prize money from his 12 appearances this season. His compatriot Chris Williams, who finished 14th at Qualifying School, has also made the most of his chance, finishing tied second on his debut in The De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship and achieving further top five finishes in the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open and the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters.
Williams is also inside the top 20 in the Order of Merit, while at 25th on the money list Heggarty, of Northern Ireland, is striving to break into the group having carried forward his Qualifying School form by finishing second in the season opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
The trio’s accomplishments this year have followed in the tradition of Qualifying graduate success since its inception in 1993, which includes Bob Boyd, who was the last graduate to win on the Senior Tour in 2005, and Kevin Spurgeon, who was named Rookie of the Year in the same season after securing his card at Qualifying School.
Such has been the strength of Qualifying School applicants over the years that Spaniard Juan Quiros failed to secure his card in 2005 but went on to win the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.
This year will be the first time that Pestana Golf Resort has hosted both stages of the Senior Tour Qualifying School and a new three year agreement will extend the resort’s relationship with the Senior Tour through to 2011.
Vale da Pinta will continue as host of the Senior Tour Qualifying School Final, while Pestana’s other courses, Silves Golf and the Nick Price-designed Gramacho, will host the Senior Tour Qualifying School Stage One from November 12-13.
There will be plenty to play for, with two new tournaments already announced for the 2010 European Senior Tour schedule.
For the graduates the new season will begin with a pre-Christmas trip to Mauritius for the inaugural Mauritius Commercial Bank Open from December 11-13, 2009.
That will be followed by the Senior Tour’s first trip to South Africa for the Berenberg Bank Masters from March 26-28, 2010 over the spectacular Links at Fancourt.
Success in the early part of the campaign could also secure a spot in The 2010 Senior Open Championship presented by MasterCard, which will be played at Carnoustie next July.
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, said: “The Qualifying School has once again produced a raft of excellent graduates onto the Tour and the Pestana Golf Resort has played its part in providing us with the class of 2009. We have seen some stunning performances, many from players with limited opportunities, and I’m sure they will all build on those during the 2010 schedule.
“The 2010 season is already looking positive following a naturally difficult period in 2009. The new events in Mauritius and South Africa will be a welcome addition to the Tour and we are looking to build upon the Brunei event in March with another event in the East, with other discussions reaching contract stage for tournaments a little closer to home.”
Entries for the European Senior Tour Qualifying School close on October 22, 2009.
European Tour Media Release