The boys are back on tour

Having made it through DP World Tour Qualifying School, Andrew Wilson and Garrick Porteous will return to the tour in 2023. Dean Bailey caught up with them both to review the year, and look ahead to the new season

Teeing it up for a full year on the DP World Tour, travelling around the globe and in some cases waiting by the phone to know if you’ve made it into the circuit’s biggest events at the last minute, isn’t the glamorous lifestyle it may always appear to be from the outside. Yet, as Garrick Porteous and Andrew Wilson can attest, it’s a lot more fun than heading to Spain in early November for a six-round shootout for just 25 cards at DP World Tour Qualifying School.

Back for the first time since the pandemic, Q School is the final chance for players to earn playing privileges for the following season. Final Stage, at Infinitum in Spain, brings together players who have progressed through two earlier stages of qualifying, those who have missed out on stepping up from the Challenge Tour rankings, and those who have missed out on holding onto their cards through the DP World tour’s Race to Dubai. That final group included both Andrew and Garrick – the former finishing the 2022 season in 134th place as Garrick ended the year in 175th place.

Garrick and Andrew on our Dec 22/Jan 23 cover

“It’s never easy to sum up a whole season, but I suppose I can say I achieved my first goal of keeping my card,” says Andrew – who played 28 events and made nine cuts, including seventh and T11 finishes in Spain. “Aside from keeping my card, it’s been pretty disastrous. Everyone said my first year would the hardest. I didn’t take their word for it at first, but now I know it’s not easy out there.

“I made mistakes. I changed things when I shouldn’t have, such as bringing in a new coach early in the season, and wasted money on little things like hire cars or being in the wrong hotels. They’re all mistakes which veterans don’t make. I’ve learned and won’t be making them again.”

Meanwhile Garrick, who was playing his third full season on the DP World Tour, played 18 events and made eight cuts, including top-20 finishes in Kenya, Portugal and England.

“My year was up and down,” he admits. “I’ve made good progress with my game, but I didn’t get the results I should have. Finishing two or three shots behind where you feel you should makes a big difference in points and money, and it all adds up. Playing a full season outside of Covid – which was so tough to deal with on top of trying to play golf for a living – has been good though – I’ve learned a lot again this year.”

For Andrew, the key lesson he’ll take into 2023 is choosing events carefully and focusing his time. He explained: “The early part of the year, in the Middle East and Africa, wasn’t a lot of fun. I’d never played there before and adjusting to those courses and conditions was tough – from the extreme heat, humidity and altitude which led to some vertigo problems to the environment, which is so different to Europe. Going forward, I’ve learned where I’m most comfortable and I’ll be building my schedule rather than aiming to just play in everything I can.”

At Q School, both Andrew and Garrick had a simple goal – finish in the top-25 and ties at Final Stage in order to play a full 2023 season on the DP World Tour. In reality, coming through the event is far more difficult.

Andrew and Garrick both finished in the final qualifying spot – tied for 23rd place – with six-round scores of 17 under-par. Including those tied with them, a total of just 28 players earned their cards, including Romanby-based Dan Brown, who finished in third place. 

While those 28 players celebrated, there were far more players left disappointed, including our Tour Life columnist Chris Paisley – who reflects on the experience on page 17.

“I played Q School as an amateur in 2018, and again in 2019 as a pro, so I knew what to expect despite it being the first one in a few years,” says Andrew. “The whole year was an uphill battle, so I’d started to plan to play Challenge Tour in August and knew Q School would be part of my end to the season. 

“Making those plans freed me up a little bit and my game improved in Italy, France and Spain in September and October. I went into Q School relaxed, content with the idea of playing Challenge Tour, and playing with that bit of freedom worked out well.

“It was a relaxed week as a whole, pushing my trolley around and knowing I was ready to go back to Challenge Tour if things didn’t work out. That’s so different to playing Q School with no status wrapped up for the next year.”

Meanwhile, Garrick had to make it through the Second Stage of Q School – played over four rounds – before the six rounds of Final Stage.

“I found some lovely form at the final event of the year in Portugal and was able to carry that forward to Q School, which was good timing,” he says.

“Second Stage is always the toughest. There are 20 spots for 80 guys and you can’t afford to have a bad day.

“The whole Q School is such a challenging experience really, particularly when you’ve been on tour that year. When you have to play Second Stage and could be so far down the player categories that you’ll struggle to play a season, that’s a lot to have on your plate.

“It heightens all your emotions – knowing you’re playing to hold onto your position and looking over your shoulder rather than looking forwards like you do in every other event. It’s a strange atmosphere – it’s so clear everyone is feeling the pressure of the one-week shootout. 

“I was so nervous too, especially playing the final hole, where a scrappy five was just enough to make it. I’ve come through Q School a couple of times now, but I’m hoping I don’t have to do it again.”

Garrick Porteous and Andrew Wilson

Having returned to the North East, both Andrew and Garrick are taking time to reflect, work with their teams, and prepare for another year on tour.

“Overall, I suppose it’s been an interesting four years as a pro,” adds Andrew – who progressed to the DP World Tour through both the EuroPro and Challenge Tour rankings. “My game hasn’t been in a good place, which is frustrating, but I’ve got a DP World Tour card for a second year and I’m looking forward to 2023.

“I’ve learned a lot in my first season, I now understand how and where I play my best golf, and I’ve got solid plans in place with my team.

“I’m working with a new swing coach this winter, which I hope will keep my game in the right place. I’ve also got plans to get fitter and stronger with Teleri Hamilton, and will be continuing the good work I’ve done with coaches Steve Robinson, Andy Paisley, Alex Buckner, and psychologist Martin Perry – who has been great to work with in the last few months. My agents and sponsors – Wilson, Mapei and Trak Employment – have also been so good with me and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them next season too.”

For Garrick, a fourth year on the DP World Tour is a chance to step up to the next level on tour. “I certainly feel like I’m moving in the right direction,” he says. “My game wasn’t sharp enough when I was playing in everything I could this summer, but I’ve got that back on track with my coach, John Harrison. Combining that with a better structure to my season should put me in a stronger position.

“I’m comfortable with my small team – John, putting coach Andy Paisley, physio Darren Wigg, and the guys at Titleist – and my game is sharp. Hopefully the winter work turns those top-20s into top-10s and I can move up the rankings.

“I played in an Albatross Events pro am in Dubai following Q School and attending the final day of the season at the Earth Course before playing it was inspiring. I want to be back there, playing the Tour Championship, in 2023.”

Both Garrick and Andrew expect to return to the DP World Tour at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship in February, and we’re looking forward to following them throughout another action-packed season.