Jonathan Caldwell leads Irish challenge in European Tour Q school

Irish quintet all have work to do as Denmark’s Benjamin Poke extends his lead

Halfway through the torture chamber that is the European Tour’s Final Qualifying School, and all of the hard work is ahead of the quintet of Irish players aiming to claim one of the precious tickets onto the main circuit for next season.

Jonathan Caldwell, in tied-46th, assumed the mantle of leading Irish player in the field in the six rounds marathon at Lumine resort in Spain: but even he has a lot of work to do to work his way into the top-25 players who earn tour cards.

The first task for players heading into the fourth round is to survive the 72-holes cut to progress onto the final two rounds. Only Caldwell - tied-46th on three-under - and Robin Dawson, tied-62nd on two-under, were inside the cutline through three rounds, while Gavin Moynihan - who dropped back to tied-82nd after a 75 - and Niall Kearney, also in tied-82nd, are within touching distance to moving into those who get to play the extra two rounds.

It was a particularly disappointing day for Moynihan, who’d moved into the all-important top-25 with a 69 on Saturday only to suffer a poor back nine in his third round with a run of three bogeys in a row from the 14th to sign for a 75.

Michael Hoey’s quest, however, looks a forlorn one after a third round 72 left him in tied-147th on eight-over-par.

Any player surviving the 72-holes cut will be guaranteed a European Tour Challenge Tour card, with the final two rounds played on the Lakes Course when the top-25 will earn the potentially career-changing European Tour cards for the 2020 season.

Denmark's Benjamin Poke extended his lead to two shots over his nearest pursuer Lars van Meijel, after the 27-year-old - coming off a rookie season on the Challenge Tour - signed for a 69 on the Hills course to sit on 203 with a two shots cushion over the Dutchman.

“I’m trying not to think about the top-25 at the moment as I can’t control what other players are doing. I can only try and control how I play and we’ll see where it all ends up at the end of the week,” said Poke.

India's SSP Chawrasia, a four-time winner on the European Tour, and England's Toby Tree shared third place on 206.

Former Ryder Cup player Jamie Donaldson’s bid to regain his tour card came to a premature conclusion when the Welsh golfer - two-over through two rounds - withdrew before the third round with a wrist injury.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times