Ireland’s Paul Conroy and Louise Duncan from Scotland emerged victorious at the Portugal staging of the inaugural R&A Student Tour Series last week – booking their places in the Final at St Andrews and Carnoustie in April.
Launched last September, the student golf initiative has consisted of four championships at venues in Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal – all at world-class courses, including hosts to The Open, The Open Qualifying Series and the European Tour. The aim of the new Series is to enhance high performance competition amongst the leading student golfers across Europe.
At Troia Golf south of Lisbon, Maynooth University’s Conroy topped the male standings in front of three of his fellow university team-mates, while Duncan edged out two of her compatriots from the University of Stirling.
Conroy finished on one-under par for the 54-hole event thanks to a birdie on the 18th, a shot clear of Allan Hill who set a new men’s amateur course record at the venue after his opening six-under-par 66. Alan Fahy, who signed for a closing best-of-the-day 67, and David Kitt shared third place on one-over-par.
Duncan, meanwhile, surged to an impressive 12-stroke win after posting a four-under-par total for her three rounds, well clear of Penelope Brown and Chloe Goadby on eight-over and ten-over respectively. Duncan impressively hit 43 of 54 greens during the event and achieved a new women’s amateur course record of three-under-par 69 in round two.
Delight for Winning Pair
Conroy said, “I felt fairly sharp coming into the week because we did really good preparation on the Maynooth University training camp (previous week in the Algarve) and that got my game in a good place going into the week.
“Myself and Allan had a great battle and it was tightly contested all round. He played great all week and shot an amazing score on the first day, so it felt great to get my first win and to come out on top with such a good player. It was also good to know that I could make a birdie and handle the pressure down the last to win the tournament.”
Duncan added, “I knew that my game was in a good place coming into the event, with only a couple of minor things I wasn’t too happy about. However, I think I did most things well during the competition and the goal of keeping calm and not thinking too much about the outcome helped a lot on the course, as it was a difficult course.
“I’m extremely happy to play the way I did and very happy to get a good win this early on in the year, which sets me up nicely for the rest of the season. I think for the Tour Series Final the goal is to play the way I did in Portugal, enjoy myself, the courses and ultimately not get carried away. The Tour Series Final will be a good test of golf and I’m looking forward to playing in it.”
Order of Merit Leaders
Players have earned points on the Tour Series Order of Merit, with the leaders progressing to the Tour Series Final to be held over Carnoustie’s Championship Course, The Eden and the Old Course in St Andrews, at what was previously The R&A Scholars Tournament, from 5 – 7 April.
After her first Student Tour Series win in Spain in November and top-five finishes in the other three events, the University of Stirling’s Brown leads the women’s Order of Merit standings. Meanwhile, after four top-10s from the four events, Fahy from Maynooth University is out in front in the men’s merit rankings.
The Order of Merit includes the Final in April – featuring 60 players (43 male and 17 female) – for which double points are on offer to crown the overall R&A Student Tour Series winners for 2019-20.
Spain Success for Brown and Shepherd
Back in November, Brown triumphed by five shots in blustery conditions in Spain, at the home of Spanish Golf Madrid, victorious by five shots over her team-mate Nicola Slater. Brown was the only player under par on the final day, posting a one-under-par 71, for a two-over-par total.
In the men’s event in Spain, Laird Shepherd, from the University of Stirling, won his second Student Tour Series competition of the season, edging out Harry Gillivan of Maynooth University. The Englishman finished on four-under-par after a closing 70, two strokes clear of Gillivan. Fahy, Walker Cup member Caolan Rafferty and Jack Broun all shared third on three-over-par.
The R&A Student Tour Series extends The R&A’s support of student golf. Each year, The R&A invests almost £500,000 in student and university golf through the Foundation Scholars programme. Currently, the organisation supports golf programmes at 17 universities and in the 2019/2020 academic year awarded 152 individual Foundation scholarships.
The R&A has supported university and student golf for over 35 years with former scholars including: 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year Shane Lowry (University College Dublin); 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari (University of Turin); five-time PGA TOUR winner Hideki Matsuyama; and Catriona Matthew (University of Stirling), the winning 2019 European Solheim Cup Captain and former Women’s British Open Champion.
View more information: https://www.randa.org/en/championships/student-tour-series