Date: November 08, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Eccles unable to defend Open title

Ben Eccles will be unable to defend his New South Wales Open crown after reaching the final stage of the European Tour Q-School overnight.

Victorian Eccles, along with Tasmanian Ryan McCarthy were the only Aussie survivors through the perils of the Q-school’s second phase.

The pair both advanced from Alicante, host of one of four Spanish-based events, with the final stage to be held next week in Girona, in the country’s north-east.

It means Eccles will forego a start at both Stonecutters Ridge this week and also at Royal Sydney next week in the national championship.

Former national squad member McCarthy was particularly impressive, carding rounds of 72-66-68-67 to finish T3 at -11, just four strokes off site winner Oscar Lengden, of Sweden.

Golf Australia rookie squad member Eccles, of Geelong, battled through the final round with a 75, but his earlier scores of 72-64-68 had done enough to give him a buffer that enabled him to coast home in T9 at five under.

Kris Mueck, of Bendigo, finished 54th at the same venue, where 18 players advanced, while Terry Pilkadaris and Aaron Pike didn’t play the final round.

There were no Aussie successes at other venues with Mat Goggin 24th and Ash Hall 51st at Valencia where 17 advanced, while Daniel Gaunt and Dimi Papadatos were 21st and 32nd, respectively, at Castellon, where 18 progressed.

The 71 golfers who advanced overnight next join the 85 exempt players for the final stage, to be played over six rounds at PGA Catalunya from November 12.

Competitors will play two rounds on each of the Stadium and Tour courses before the field is cut to the top 70 players and ties who will play two further rounds on the Stadium Course.

The top 25 and ties will secure playing rights for the 2017 European Tour season.