THE region’s presence on next season’s European Tour is taking shape, although it is not until Saturday that the 2012 Challenge Tour – the “feeder league” – comes to a conclusion.
It is already a certainty Hartlepool’s Graeme Storm will be joined on the main circuit by Penrith’s Gary Lockerbie and Mickley’s Chris Paisley both stepping up from the Challenge Tour, in Lockerbie’s case regaining his card.
Storm, who represents Rockliffe Hall and stands 82nd in the Race to Dubai, will start 2013 as the No 1 from the North East and Cumbria. The top 115 keep their card and time is running out for Ashington’s Kenneth Ferrie, three times a tour winner.
Such is Ferrie’s propensity for suddenly hitting his straps in a blaze of glory, only the foolhardy would venture a wager against his doing precisely that at a time when he has rarely been more in need of one of his sudden bursts of form.
Ferrie is eligible for two more tournaments this season – in Singapore in a fortnight’s time and Hong Kong the week after that. He needs something special to avoid tour school. At 156 in the rankings, he is over £68,000 short of 115th place.
Neither Ferrie nor Storm are in the field for this week’s European Tour event, the BMW Masters in Shanghai which starts today.
The Challenge Tour event – the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final – began in Savelletri, southern Italy, yesterday. Lockerbie signed for a five-under 66 to tie for eighth place after the first round with Paisley, attached to Close House, tied 33rd on par 71.
Lockerbie went into the event third in the rankings and assured of the top-10 place he needs to guarantee a higher level card on the main tour in 2013.
Paisley, ranked 12th, must record low scores during the remaining three rounds to have a chance of earning as good a European Tour card as Lockerbie.
The 29-year-old Lockerbie, a former English Amateur champion, said: “I think some of us are probably all of the same opinion that we’ve secured our cards for next year and that’s the job done.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off us. The guys down in 21st, 22nd place or 11th or 16th will have a lot more pressure on them. You really want to be in that top 10.” Paisley worked with coach Andrew Nicholson after his round and said: “I was not into the shot at all – I was more focused on my swing rather than the target.
“I did some target awareness drills with Nicko and now I feel like I am back to my old self. I am looking forward to the second round more than any other round all year.”
Barnard Castle’s Robert Dinwiddie is 48th in the Challenge Tour rankings and only the top 45 were eligible for this week’s season’s finale.
Dinwiddie has risen from an early season ranking outside the top 100 and will contest the second stages of Q Schools for both the European and American tours next month.
“It’s a relief to be finding some sort of form,” he said. “It’s no fun catching the ball with just a glancing blow when you’re playing with a broken-down swing!”