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There’s all to play for in Turkey as a mix of amateurs, seasoned professionals and former Legends Tour winners fight for a spot ahead for the coming season. There will be joy and heartbreak this week – and drama is guaranteed at a tense event that is all or nothing for many of the players teeing it up.
Twenty-three nationalities are represented in a truly international field, with three-time Legends Tour winner David Shacklady, eight-time Asian Tour winner Jyoti Randhawa and experienced DP World Tour players like Gary Murphy, Alessandro Tadini and Andrew Marshall amongst the favourites.
“It’s a stressful week, but I’m actually looking forward to it,” says Shacklady.
“I’ve been practicing hard, and it feels like it’s coming together. Finishing in the top five is 100% the goal, anything else doesn’t really matter. It would mean I can play week-in and week-out on the Legends Tour and plan my year a lot better.”
He’s enjoying the weather and excellent facilities at Gloria, as well: “It’s a really good course and a great bonus to have fantastic facilities on-site. You can spend as much time as you want and they’ve got a tremendous short game area, which is going to be quite a big factor this week.”
The field is made up of 72 players, with 41 advancing from a 36-hole First Stage earlier in the week and 31 exempt into Final Stage, which is four rounds. A cut will be made after 54 holes, so only players within eight shots of the final qualifying spot (5th) will play in the final round. The top five after 72 holes will secure their playing rights for this year on the Legends Tour. A sudden death play-off will take place to determine the final qualifiers if there is a tie around the bubble.
There was a four-way tie at the top of First Stage, with South Africa’s Gregg Upton, Canada’s Alan McLean and Englishmen Roderick Bastard and Chris Gane leading the qualifiers on -1.
McLean is very happy with that result having had some time off in the build-up: “I’m pleased because I finished Champions Tour Q School on December 10th and haven’t picked up a club since then until I got here and played a practice round. Expectations weren’t high but I’m pleasantly surprised. I hope playing First Stage gives me an advantage (over the players who are exempt to Final Stage). I hadn’t seen the course before and now I’ve played three more rounds and it’s nice to get some rounds and shots under pressure.”
Q School represents a chance for players who didn’t play professionally earlier in their lives to realise their dreams of playing on Tour.
Among them is Mark Wharton, who also advanced from First Stage, and he’s hoping to gain his card at the 10th and final attempt after narrowly missing out previously. “I’m living the dream,” says Wharton, who turned pro at the age of 49. “I turned pro to give it a shot. Turning pro 10 years ago was a new thing for me, it was like the next chapter to finish my golfing career off, and I’ve loved it. It would be great to be in the mix again this week.”
There are three courses at Gloria GC and Q School will be played on the New Course, which is a par 72 that measures 6,846 yards. It’s a layout that’s designed for drama with water coming into play on nearly half the holes and two par-5s in the final three, including the 497-yard 18th with water all the way up the left.
A couple of last year’s Q School graduates enjoyed plenty of success on the Legends Tour in 2023. Greig Hutcheon had two runners-up finishes and two other top-10s as he finished 8th on the MCB Road to Mauritius and narrowly missed out on being the Barry Lane Rookie of the Year, and Keith Horne lost in a play-off at the season-opening Riegler and Parter Legends before adding four more top-10s on his way to 12th on the Order of Merit. There’s every reason for the top five this week to think they can kick on and have a successful season.
The tournament is played from Friday 19th-Monday 22nd January, 2024. Visit www.legendstour.com to see the full list of tee times, keep up to date with the leaderboard and find out more about Legends Tour Q School at Gloria Golf Club, Belek, Turkey.