By John Manley
Keith Nolan earned a return to the PGA Tour with a 19th-place finish at the Qualifying Tournament at Doral in Florida last week. Nolan’s 63 had him atop the leaderboard after the first round. He remained close throughout the next four rounds, losing ground only in the final round, when he shot 71. The Bray, Co. Wicklow, native finished 12 under par at 408 (63-70-70-67-67-71). He earned $24,000.
P.J. Cowan played some fine golf at times, but a poor fourth round, in which he shot 74, was damaging to his prospects. He finished five under par at 420 (72-69-68-74-72-65), which tied him for 99th place. A score of 412 or better was needed to qualify for the PGA Tour. Cowan earned a provisional spot on next year’s buy.com Tour (formerly the Nike Tour). Blaine McCallister was the medalist with a score of 401.
Gary Murphy earned a promotion to the 2000 European Tour with his tie for third place at the Qualifying Tournament, which was contested over the San Roque Club and Sotogrande Golf Club in Spain. Murphy shot 427 (74-68-72-71-70-72), leaving him plenty of cushion between the 436 needed to qualify. Alistair Forsyth led the way with a score of 423.
Philip Walton’s downward slide showed no signs of abating. Walton, a former Ryder Cup member, ran out of exemptions for membership on this circuit, and needed to earn his way back in Spain. Two particularly damaging rounds (the third and fifth) left him 11 strokes off the score he needed to qualify. He shot 447 over the six rounds (68-73-78-70-81-77).
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A 72-hole cut was in effect, and that snared the two other Irish hopes. David Higgins shot 293 (74-70-76-73) and Peter Lawrie signed to 299 (73-73-76-77).