McGrane heads the Irish challenge at Tour School

McGrane, Dunne, Phelan and Thornton make the cut for final two rounds in Girona

That head-scratching mixture of unbridled enthusiasm, tense readiness and utter boredom was fully in evidence as four of the seven-strong Irish contingent remained in the hunt for European Tour cards at the Final Stage of the Qualifying School at PGA Catalunya Resort.

The irony is that the man who says he is bored by tournament golf and only wants to give himself an option for next year, Damien McGrane, is the one who leads the Irish challenge in joint 14th on eight under par.

“Am I interested (in going on)? Right now, no,” said 44-year old McGrane, whose battling 71 on the Stadium Course left him six shots behind English pair Daniel Gavins and Chris Hanson and South Africa’s Jean Hugo.

“Maybe if I sit at home for the next four or five months in miserable weather, loading and unloading the dishwasher, I might say, Christ, I’d better go back and play golf.


“But I am bored playing tournament golf. I have showed that all of this year. And as I said already, if I got a card, it would allow me to play a little bit of golf next year because right now, I have unfortunately lost my interest in playing tournaments.”

McGrane hopes some "great young Irish players" get their cards and 22-year old British Open hero Paul Dunne is now in position to finish among the all important top 25 and ties after he holed seven putts between five and 30 feet in a five-birdie 68 that moved him into tie for 18th on seven under.

Dunne has the safety net of a Challenge Tour card having made more than €90,000 from three European Tour starts since he turned professional following Britain and Ireland's Walker Cup win.

But he’s still putting pressure on himself, admitting it’s “the 25 or nothing” for him this week.

“It would be great to get my card,” said Dunne, who was pleased that the putter felt good in his hands from early in the round. “It would be a great end to what has been quite a memorable year so far.”

While Dunne and McGrane holed more than their share of putts – McGrane even chipped in for birdie at the fifth where he feared his ball hand found a watery grave – Mount Juliet's Kevin Phelan holed almost nothing as he carded a 73 but still moved up four places to lie 44th on three under.

It’s the top 25 or bust for Phelan now too but he will get at least 22 European Tour starts having only narrowly failed to win back his card this year.

But it was far more stressful for Ulster-based Simon Thornton, who has almost no playing rights now despite winning a European Tour event in 2013.

“Two years ago you win on the main tour and everything is rosy,” said Thornton, who finished with nine straight pars to make the four-round cut by one stroke on two under after a 71. “Then all of a sudden, you have no category. I simply had to make the cut even though I kept telling myself, ‘it’s not important.’

“Obviously it was important and now, if I want to carry on playing even just a few events on both tours, I can play. It’s a monkey off the back. I still might do something else with my life next year, but I can play with a bit more freedom for the next two rounds.”

Undone by an 87 on Sunday, Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee closed with a fine four under 66 on the Tour Course but missed the cut by seven shots while Headfort’s Brian Casey finished a shot further back on eight over after a one over 71.

Tour School Fourth round: 270 D Gavins (Eng) 71 65 66 68; C Hanson (Eng) 70 63 66 71; J Hugo (RSA) 65 71 67 67. 271 A Otaegui (Esp) 74 63 62 72. 273 U Van Den Berg (RSA) 72 64 66 71; D Im (USA) 70 68 65 70; J Knutzon (USA) 67 68 66 72. 274 G King (Eng) 64 72 64 74; M Kinhult (am) (Swe) 66 67 65 76. 275 D Dixon (Eng) 72 68 64 71; C Costilla (Arg) 68 71 68 68; L Jensen (Den) 70 66 67 72; R McGowan (Eng) 69 69 64 73. 276 D McGrane (Irl) 71 68 66 71; M Southgate (Eng) 72 66 68 70; N Bertasio (Ita) 71 68 66 71; J Robinson (Eng) 72 69 64 71. 277 J Guerrier (Fra) 69 70 66 72; M Palmer (RSA) 63 71 68 75; M Jonzon (Swe) 68 70 65 74; H Joannes (Bel) 66 70 68 73; P Dunne (Irl) 71 68 70 68; N Ravano (Ita) 75 65 65 72. Other: 281 K Phelan (Ire) 70 72 66 73. 282 S Thornton (Ire) 71 67 73 71. Missed cut: 290 R McGee (Ire) 64 87 73 66. 291 B Casey (Ire) 76 69 75 71.