Ireland’s Michael Judge has only one more opportunity remaining to regain his place on the Main Tour after a seven-year gap following defeat in the penultimate round of Q School 2 on Friday.
The Dubliner had unsurprisingly been the favourite out of the disappointingly small Irish contingent to come through the turgid test in Burton with a pro ticket, given his success of late on the domestic front.
Judge captured his second Irish National Championship title in the days running up to Q School 1 to finish top of the Irish rankings for the 2017/18 campaign.
The 43 year-old suffered a shock of sorts when he was downed 4-2 in the first event at the Meadowside Leisure Centre to Kishan Hirani but Judge threatened to hit top gear in the second tournament, knocking in a a superb 132 in overcoming Sydney Wilson, but ultimately fell short against Dechawat Poomjaeng at the second last hurdle.
Judge will now be looking forward to the final Q School, where he faces John Whitty in the opening round on Saturday, while countrymen Greg Casey, Ross Bulman, Leo Fernandez, Aaron Holland, and Ronan Whyte will be hoping to discover some inspiration in the upcoming few days as well.
Thailand’s Poomjaeng, meanwhile, was unable to capitalise on his 4-2 victory over Judge as he was denied in the quarter-finals – the last round of each Q School as four players gain a professional card from each event – by Zhao Xintong.
It was perhaps a bit of a shock to see Zhao, who many people have held in similar esteem to the likes of Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong in the past, drop off the tour in the first place but the Chinese youngster wasted little time in bouncing straight back up to the elite.
The 21 year-old was joined by countryman Lu Ning, as well as Craig Steadman and Jordan Brown, with the Northern Irishman accounting for former Masters semi-finalist Jamie Cope at the final stage.
The quartet joins Sam Craigie, Hammad Miah, Sam Baird, and Jak Jones as graduates from 2018’s Q School with four more set to complete the dozen by the end of play on Thursday.
The top 64 players who fail in their quest to gain professional status will at least have some consolation in automatically qualifying to compete in the inaugural Challenge Tour that has been set up for amateur competitors from next season.
The Challenge Tour will consist of ten events across Europe, with prize money awarded and the dangling carrot of two Main Tour places on offer for the top two players on the Order of Merit at the climax of the campaign.