Exclusive: Golf on the Edge 2

Author Ross Biddiscombe has “completed the legend” with his second book about the European Tour’s Qualifying School.

Three years ago Ross Biddiscombe followed the agonising journey of seven men through the golfing Purgatory that is European Tour Q School.
Golf on the Edge: Triumphs and Tragedies of Q School was the result, a book that became a number one bestseller on amazon.co.uk and was recommended by the Guardian’s golf correspondent Lawrence Donegan, himself the author of an acclaimed book about the less glamorous side of the golfing world (Four Iron in the Soul, the account of a year spent caddying for journeyman pro Ross Drummond on the European Tour).
In the process of researching and writing the first book Biddiscombe became something of a Q School anorak; one minute delving into the archives to understand the full history of the tournament, the next minute obsessively following the various Q Schools around the world.
This led him to wonder about writing a second book on the subject and when his readers expressed interest in a follow-up, Biddiscombe was sold on the idea of “completing the legend” of Q School.
The result is Golf on the Edge 2: Q School Complete, another compelling read that will appeal to the legions of golf fans that have enjoyed the work of American golf journalists John Feinstein and Alan Shipnuck.
Biddiscombe was aware that having dealt in such detail with the stories of seven players’ travails, the second book needed to mine the same seam without becoming a repeat episode.
He also knew that the back history of Q School is a largely untold story so the book begins with a rundown of previous tournaments.
It is a tale that reveals how even major winners and Ryder Cup stars can be tripped up by the difficulty of gaining a short-term future via the tension-wracked experience of Q School (as Angel Cabrera, who needed four trips there, proved).
It also shows how much the European Tour has changed since the mid-1970s.
In 1975 there was very little golf on television, the European Tour was still essentially based in Britain, the pros mixed club duties with tournament play and they had to qualify for events on the Monday.
What a different world it is today – and Biddiscombe shows exactly how the Q School has been transformed over the decades to reflect and better-suit a larger-scale European Tour.
But the strength of the book lies in the author’s ability to walk the fairways and hunt for stories; like Feinstein he appreciates that the best tales are not necessarily attached to the finest players.
Biddiscombe set himself the challenge of journeying through each and every stage of the 2008 Q School, on the lookout for a golfer he could follow from the first tee at first stage to the final green at the final stage.
He began his trek at Dundonald Links in Scotland where the weather was appalling and he bumped into Franny Suits III, a remarkably named (and arguably even more remarkably ambitious) young American player who is travelling the world playing the various tour Q Schools.
Next day the author moved south to Chart Hills in Kent and had a prescient encounter with the father of Oskar Henningsson, the tall and remarkably broad-shouldered Swede.
The proud Mr Henningsson told Biddiscombe “in no uncertain terms” that Oskar was “playing well and has a great chance of going all the way this year”.
Plenty of proud family members would say the same, but Oskar lived up to the hype by not only winning that stage, but going on to become the first golfer to play all three stages and then win Final Qualifying itself.
A struggling performer on the Challenge Tour and at Q School in 2004 and 2005, Biddiscombe revealed how Henningsson took stock of his golfing career.
“I realised that I just wasn’t good enough,” the Swede said. “I needed to improve every part of my game, so I took a step backwards so that I could practice. Now I think I’m ready and I’m playing this week to win.”
He didn’t just take that attitude to Q School, he maintained it this year on Tour and won the Moravia Silesia Open, performing a career turnaround that will no doubt be inspiring hundreds of golfers who head to Q School in the closing month of 2009.
The Biddiscombe journey continued to The Oxfordshire GC for more first stage action before he flew to Montenmedio in Spain for stage two and then PGA Catalunya for the final qualifying.
At each of those venues he tracked the progress of Bristol’s Chris Wood, detailing the way the youngster waltzed impressively through stage one, coped admirably with setbacks (a poor course, slow play and a lost 7-iron) at stage two and showed his class in the final stage to gain his 2009 card.
Biddiscombe offers an intriguing glimpse into the world of an ambitious young golfer, his proud but nervous father and the highs and lows they cope with during more than 250 holes of golf.
The book concludes with a ‘What happened next?’ section for the golfers featured in the first book, completing their story, reminding readers of the perilous nature of tournament golf.
Golf on the Edge 2: Q School Complete is a book for the golf fan who can see beyond the leaderboard.
It is a book for the golf fan who recognises that only a minority of tournament pros can live the glamorous life.
It is a book for the golf fan who wonders about the fears that the majority of tournament pros must face, the dreams they cling to and the realities they face.

Golf on the Edge 2: Q School Complete by Ross Biddiscombe is published by Constant Sports. For more information and to buy the book, go to the Golf on the Edge website.