The 2016 season on the EST will be different from previous years as there will only be 54 players in the field on most weeks. The reduction in field size meant that a lot of very talented players with long tenure on the main tour and the senior tour would have to return to qualifying school. The field would include former main tour multiple event winners, players with all-time money that would not be exempt this year, returning winners of previous qualifying schools and players outside the top 20 from the 2015 final OOM. All were competing for one of only 5 cards for this year and no alternate or conditional cards.
I was very fortunate to finish in a tie for 5th position and come out on top in a playoff for the final placing. The final round was a real grind with very strong winds that played havoc with so many shots and had the ball oscilating on the greens. The wind was so strong that a level putt of 20-feet into the wind would have to be struck like it was a 30-foot putt while a level putt of 20-foot down wind would have to be struck like it was only 10-feet.
A big assist in helping me to qualify goes out to Keir Smith who followed me around the last day and really gave me a pump up on the 16th tee. As many of you are aware I am not a scoreboard watcher while playing near the lead. I do watch when I am out of contention just as any fan would. This year for some reason it was a bit different as I looked a couple of times in the final round and nearly threw away my chance to qualify because of it.
After making bogey on the 15th hole I was hanging my head when I spoke to Keir and lamented that I felt I had given away my chance to qualify for this year. Keir calmly stated, “No. Not at all, because all the scores are really fluctuating with the windy conditions.” He then asked me “if I told you at the beginning of the week that you could stand on the 16th tee of the final round in the hunt and tied for the final spot would you take it?” I replied yes of course I would. Keir told me “well that is where you are at now so go get it.” To me this was like a breath of fresh air and energy boost to focus on the task at hand, play one shot at a time and not hang my head. When the qualifying ended I could not thank Keir enough for being there all day long and getting me across the line.
So again I am thankful for the opportunity ahead of me and filled with excitement and enthusiasm as I prepare for the coming season. There will be some new venues in France, Italy, Germany and England while the remaining events will be on the same courses as last year. Preparation will be a lot easier and less hectic because of the familiarity of the courses, cities, hotels, airports and travel arrangements.