LEEDS’S Daniel Gavins could easily have been crushed by his failure to translate a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the EuroPro Tour’s final 2015 event into a £20,000 victory.
Struggling with illness, a one-under-par 71 on the last day of the Matchroom Sport Tour Championship at Desert Springs in Spain – added to fine opening rounds of 67 and 65 – pitched him into a three-man play-off.
He was the first to drop out and a cheque for £7,500 was not enough to place him among the top-five money winners for the season, who were all awarded cards to the Challenge Tour, European golf’s second tournament tier.
Instead of having his confidence undermined by the experience, the 24-year-old, who is attached to Walton Driving Range, at Wakefield, took positives from having competed so well in spite of sickness – and two weeks later won a European Tour card to sit at the continent’s top table.
Accentuating positives is a trait which serves professional sportsmen and women well and helped him in the penultimate stage of Qualifying School for the European Tour itself, at Lumine Golf & Beach Club in Spain, the week after his play-off disappointment.
Gavins shot four consecutive rounds below 70 – 68 67 64 66 – to win around £1,250 and leave Lumine as the venue’s top qualifier for last week’s six-round Final Stage of the Qualifying School.
“I tried to look at the positives of Desert Springs,” he recalls.
“I played well all that week so I knew I was playing well enough to get through stage two (of Qualifying School).
“I had a sickness bug during that last EuroPro Tour event and I threw up before the second round – and then I shot seven under, which was very hard work. I was leading by four, but I felt even worse in the third round.
“I knew I needed to win it and I knew if I didn’t win the play-off I wouldn’t get top five in the EuroPro Tour order of merit, so that was a bit more pressure – but it is just how it goes.”
Having shown itself so emphatically the following week at Lumine, Gavins’s mental fortitude continued through to Catalunya Resort where he and fellow Yorkshireman Chris Hanson (Woodsome Hall) were in a three-way tie for the lead after four rounds.
At that stage, 76 players survived the cut knowing that the top 25 and ties after the following two rounds would earn playing privileges for the 2015-16 wrapround season on the European Tour. “After four rounds you’re getting closer and closer to getting the Tour card so it builds up a bit of pressure,” he admits. “It was definitely harder to play the last two rounds than it was the first four.”
Having followed his opening 71 with scores of 65 66 68, he endured one of those frustrating days that afflicts all golfers of all abilities.
“I didn’t strike a good ball all day,” he says reflecting on his fifth-round 75. “It was kind of a grind.”
A 30-minute internet link-up with his sports psychologist Iain Highfield, who is based at the Bishops Gate Golf Academy in Florida, helped Gavins find a swing thought to take from the range out onto the course.
The upshot was a ninth-place finish, three successive birdies from the 13th underpinning his closing one-under-par 71.
Now he is mapping out a season playing among Europe’s finest players, although a severe cold which followed on from his illness means he will not begin his campaign until the new year, when he will head for South Africa. His dad Steve is a good golfer, a former single-figure player, and had his son swinging a club from the age of two.
“Dad encouraged me all the time,” says Gavins, who grew up playing his golf at Wheatley and went on to represent Yorkshire at both boys’ and senior levels.
“I’ve also had a lot of help from Brian Rawlingson, who gives me free use of Walton Driving Range, which he owns, and Mick Todd, the manager at Pontefract Squash Club, who helps me with my health and fitness.”
Both his dad and mum Sue are excited about the prospect of watching their son play on the European Tour and Gavins admits: “It hasn’t really sunk in.
“I haven’t got as far as budgeting my season, but I’ll obviously be playing in as many as I can.
“It will obviously cost quite a lot, but I need to play as many as I can to try to keep my card for the following year.”