Qualifying School

Well the time is upon us for the annual qualifying school process to gain status for the various Senior Tours in 2017.

Often people ask me how does the process of Senior Tour Professional Golf work and so I thought I would write a blog about it.

This is a very basic outline because to go into greater detail would require extensive information and too much to read about. Often times the criteria changes year to year thus I will give primary information as it applies today.

To begin with there are only four (4) Tours worldwide for Senior Professional Golf.

The European Senior Tour competing mainly in Europe and sometimes in the Middle East and Asia; Champions Tour in the USA; Legends Tour in Australia/New Zealand; Japan Senior Tour in Japan.

These 4 Senior Tours are directly affiliated with the respective main PGA Tour of that area – European Tour; PGA Tour; Australian Tour and the Japanese Tour, and in some cases the Professional Golfers Association (Club Professionals) of that country.

The size of the Starting Fields in tournaments on these tours vary depending on the type of tournament.

In Europe the regular tournaments have just reduced from 72 down to 54 players. The Champions Tour is about to reduce from 81 down to 78 players.  There are 144 players in the major championships.

While it is possible for ‘anyone’ to qualify and play these various tours the reality is the playing opportunities are limited a great deal to those members who played the respective main tour (flat bellies) in their youth.

On the European Senior Tour the bulk of the field is comprised of the following categories:

Category 1: Past winners in any of the Major Championships and European Tour Order of Merit

Category 2: Top 20 entrants from the previous year Order of Merit. (On the Champions Tour – top 30; Legends Tour – top 60; Japan Senior Tour – top 30.)

Category 3: Winner of the European Senior Tour Order of Merit for 4 calendar years, and one calendar year from the date of the win for regular European Senior Tour Order of Merit Tournaments

Category 4: Tournament invitations (to a maximum of 3 for all events)

Category 5: Top 20 entrants from the Career Money list (not included above)

Category 6: Top 5 eligible entrants from the Current Qualifying School

Category 7: Winners of European Tour Order of Merit Tournaments, not otherwise exempt, for one calendar year from the date of their 50th birthday

Category 8: Once the above Categories have been exhausted, entries will be taken sequentially from the following alternates:

  • Next available Player from the Previous Year Order of Merit
  • Next available Player from the Career Money List

Category 98: Leading European Senior Tour Member finishing within positions 2-5 in a Regular European Senior Tour Order of Merit Tournament for the following Regular European Senior Tour Order of Merit Tournament within the same Official Season

So you have a better chance to play if you have Tournament Victories accumulated during your younger days on the respective main tour and enough career money earned during your younger days on the respective main tour. The more wins and the higher amount of career money a player has accumulated means a longer period of time being eligible to play on the senior tour once reaching senior tour age of 50.

Now, if a player has neither Tournament Victories on the respective main tour or enough career money earned then it is off to the annual Qualifying School.

I know a lot of people, myself included, feel like our games are in good order (still competitive) and our health and fitness has been maintained into our late 40’s so going out and qualifying should be a reasonable opportunity.

Let me first give you an idea what is at stake.

There are 5 qualifying spots available to earn playing status for the year on the European Senior Tour.

There are 5 qualifying spots available to earn playing status for the year on the Champions Tour.

There are 4 qualifying spots available to earn playing status for the year on the Legends Tour.

There are 4 to 5 foreign qualifying spots available to earn playing status for the year on the Japan Senior Tour.

That’s it – 18 to 19 spots worldwide available to earn playing status for the year in Senior Professional Golf.

Compare that to the nearly 1,000 qualifying spots available to the younger players on the various tours around the world.

That is why people say that to earn a tour card as a Senior is the toughest tour card to earn in the world.

Now you ask how about the depth of field and quality of players competing for these cards.

Well a couple of years ago I went through the two stage qualifying process for the Champions Tour and made the Final Stage Qualifying.

The playing resume of those players competing at the Final Stage Qualifying consisted of the following:

PGA Tour Victories – 48

Major Championships – 1

Champions Tour Victories –17

Champions Tour Major Championships – 6

Web.com Victories – 44

European Tour Victories – 42

European Senior Tour Victories – 20

Other International Victories – 325

I think you would agree that is a pretty impressive list and all competing for one of only 5 available spots to play the following year on the Champions Tour.

Now, because I personally do not have any victories or enough career money earned in Europe it means that unless I finish inside the top 20 on the current years Order of Merit or win a tournament (preferable late in the year so as to have a full run of tournaments the following year), I will be required to go back to qualifying school each and every year.

This is why I feel so blessed to have earned my way onto the European Senior Tour the previous couple of years through the qualifying school.

Sometimes people ask me why go through all this and I reply because that is what it takes in golf to be able to compete among the best in professional golf.

I often wonder what a different world we would live in if we took the same approach to all the other jobs in the world. The doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentist, teachers, politicians, white-collar and blue-collar workers in every job imaginable and identifying worldwide the top people in those jobs for the current year.

Imagine if you will everyone competing each and every year to stay among the best in that job field worldwide.

I think we would see a huge change in the customer service interaction, the speed of returning calls, finishing jobs correctly, on time and on budget.

Oh what a different world it would be!!

Remember that if you are not up to the grade in your job/field then off you go to qualifying school for a chance at one of 5 spots available and the opportunity to ply your trade the next year. If you don’t make the grade at qualifying school well then, fend for yourself for small scraps, doing whatever you can do and then return to qualifying school the year after again for another try.

As tournament professional golfers we are all independent contractors and for many of us, earning our way is based on our results year to year.

That is the reality of life for those players without enough status to be in all the tournaments available in Senior Professional Golf worldwide.

Thank you as always for your comments and feedback.