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Tarling heads the class of 2015 at Q-School

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Ken Tarling completed a comfortable seven shot victory in the European Senior Tour Qualifying School to lead the 16 players who earned cards for the 2015 season. The Canadian had started the final round at Pestana Resort’s Vale da Pinta course with a two shot advantage and never looked like relinquishing the lead, mixing two birdies with two bogeys on the front nine.

With his nearest rivals losing ground, Tarling had a run of six consecutive pars after the turn and then birdied the 16th hole before two more pars to finish, as he signed for a one under par round of 70 and a winning score of six under par 278.

“I’m thrilled,” said Tarling, a veteran of six previous Qualifying Schools. “It’s been quite an experience this week. I’ve never played that well at this event, so it’s great to win here.

“It’s been hard sitting on the lead the last couple of days. It’s easy for your mind to wander. That’s why I’m so pleased with how I’ve handled it.”

While the 56 year old calmly plotted his way to a full card for the 2015 Senior Tour season, where he will play alongside golfing greats such as Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam, the battle to join him in the all-important top six proved much more dramatic, as Tarling ended the 72-hole contest as the only player to break par.

His playing partners Magnus Persson Atlevi and Graeme Bell, both of whom started just two shots back, could not match his steadiness during the final round, with first round leader Atlevi dropping three strokes on the front nine. Englishman Bell, who reached the turn one over par for the day, then hurt his hand playing out of the trees on the tenth hole, and while he made birdie there, he then dropped three shots in a row and three-putted the last hole for a round of 75 to drop back to one over par.

With English pair John Harrison (68) and Gary Marks (71) Australian Tim Elliott (71) and Frenchman Roger Sabarros (74) already in the clubhouse on that mark, Bell ended up taking the final full card on offer, with Atlevi the man to miss out after the Swede, whose only birdie of the day was on the tenth hole, dropped further shots on the 12th and 16th holes, before finishing with a double bogey six after four-putting the 18th hole.

That meant Atlevi, the youngest player to earn a card from the European Tour Qualifying School as a 17 year old in 1982, dropped back to three over par and had to settle for a conditional card for 2015 as a result of finishing tenth, with nine other players also earning a spot in that category.

For Tarling, the victory stroll was just reward for his perseverance, and means he can now play a full Senior Tour schedule for the first time.

“I’ve not played a regular schedule on any Tour since the Canadian Tour in the early 1990s, so this means a lot,” he said. “I’ve not had much success playing as a conditional player and trying to get a game in different countries. Now I have a home for a year.

“I never really felt calm until the 17th hole. I don’t look at leaderboards but I spoke to a friend on the 17th tee and he told me I was six clear then, so I felt pretty cool after that.

“I lost our Canadian Seniors last year when I was leading and that was the first time I have lost from a leading position, so that was in the back of my mind. I was just trying to make pars today and run people out of holes and it worked.”

Despite starting the final round nine shots back, it was Harrison, the 2009 Qualifying School winner, who finished runner up courtesy of having the lowest final round out of the five players who tied on one over par.

“It’s amazing,” said Harrison. “I had a torturous week overall. I had a treble on the first day, a treble on the second day and three putted the last from three feet yesterday. So you think those things will come back to haunt you. I played really nicely today though and I think sometimes when you are in the situation I was, when you have to make birdies, it is easier than when you try to hold on. It made me more positive.”

Meanwhile, Bell, who like Harrison hails from the north east of England, was relieved to take the sixth and final full card, having missed out two years ago when he led at the halfway mark.

“I’m over the moon,” said Bell. “It was going to be a lot easier but I hit my ball over the fence behind a tree and hurt my hand. After that I kept carving the ball right and then I just stumbled in after that. But this is just like taking a test and passing it. I’m just delighted that I’ve actually done it now. I was leading the first time I came here and messed it up, so it’s great to just get over the line this time.”

Complete final round scores (par 71)

278 K Tarling (Can) 67 68 73 70,

285 J Harrison (Eng) 70 72 75 68, G Marks (Eng) 75 70 69 71, T Elliott (Aus) 71 70 73 71, R Sabarros (Fra) 69 73 69 74, G Bell (Eng) 67 73 70 75,

286 M Bianco (Ita) 73 71 72 70, F Lamare (Fra) 71 72 71 72,

287 S Cipa (Eng) 72 71 73 71, M Atlevi (Swe) 65 72 73 77,

288 P Scott (Eng) 73 70 75 70, B Conser (USA) 72 76 69 71, M Guzman (Arg) 73 69 75 71, J Sallat (Fra) 69 72 74 73,

289 P Dahlberg (Swe) 76 69 73 71, D Westermark (Swe) 74 70 72 73, M Wharton (Eng) 70 74 72 73,

291 D Wettlaufer (Can) 74 69 74 74, P Gresswell (Eng) 76 75 71 69, G Joyner (Aus) 72 70 77 72, G Norquist (USA) 75 77 72 67,

292 A Macdonald (Eng) 73 69 78 72, C Grenier (Aut) 72 73 74 73,

293 J Murphy (Eng) 73 72 78 70,

294 P Parker (USA) 74 73 73 74, K Hutton (Sco) 78 71 74 71, J Berendt (Arg) 74 75 71 74, K Spurgeon (Eng) 74 71 71 78, S East (am) (Eng) 72 72 79 71,

295 P Romero (Esp) 77 72 75 71,

296 R Fish (Eng) 70 75 78 73, J Sanchez (Mex) 73 72 75 76, S McNally (Eng) 75 69 81 71, P Martinez (Par) 74 71 73 78, P Dugeny (Fra) 77 73 74 72,

297 K Smith (Can) 75 74 74 74, S Bennett (Eng) 76 75 69 77, M Hallberg (Swe) 75 75 75 72, R Franco (Par) 76 76 72 73,

299 J Nougues (Arg) 71 72 80 76,

301 M Reynard  (Eng) 78 71 76 76,

303 K Hinton (Eng) 73 70 80 80,

304 Y Nilsson (Swe) 72 76 77 79