Golf: Spanish spanner works up White into black mood: The battle to join Europe's millionaire golf club, the Volvo Tour, is over for another year. One British loser, however, is crying foul. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
WHEN Ignacio Garrido walked away with the Spanish PGA Championship, Liam White knew the game was up, but the circumstances surrounding the promotion of the Spaniard and the demotion of the Englishman have led to bitter resentment.

The top 10 in the money list on the Challenge Tour get their cards to play on the pounds 25m European Tour and are saved from the ordeal of having to go through the Qualifying School. After winning pounds 30,000 in the summer White thought he was safe. However, the last event on the schedule, the Spanish PGA - it coincided with a tournament in Italy - was won by Garrido. His first prize of pounds 7,671, high by the standards of a nursery for the main Volvo circuit, enabled him to secure 10th place in the final reckoning and the last card. Garrido, who won the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship last year, is the 21-year- old son of the European Tour professional Antonio Garrido and is an outstanding prospect.

White, a 25-year-old from Nottingham who turned professional after playing in the Walker Cup at Portmarnock two years ago, dropped to 11th, about pounds 300 behind. He had to pay pounds 570 to attend the school at Montpellier where earlier this week he failed to get his card. White and other members of the Challenge Tour subscribe to a conspiracy theory. They argue that the Spanish PGA was closed to non- Spaniards and that its addition to the calendar was late and oddly timed. They also say the prize fund rose from pounds 30,000 to pounds 46,000.

'With closed events and bigger than average prize money a country could almost guarantee its players getting their cards,' White said. 'It's farcical. Prize-money should be consistent. The system is all wrong. I'm not happy being done out of it by a fault in the system. People's livelihoods are at stake and it's got to be run fairly.' The Challenge Tour director, Andy Stubbs, said: 'I've heard the rumours and people have misinterpreted what's gone on. We wouldn't do anything underhand. The Spanish PGA was put on the schedule in July. We can't make players read it. I feel sorry for Liam but unfortunately somebody's always going to finish 11th. The only way Garrido could get into the top 10 was by winning and he did.'

Stubbs, a former Tour pro who has taken charge of the Seniors Tour, said closed events cannot carry a fund higher than the average prize-money and that any country that stages an open tournament is also entitled to host a national event. Carl Suneson, who plays under the English flag, has Swedish parents and lives in Spain, is a member of the Spanish PGA and could have played in its championship. However, if he had won, the money, because he is not a Spanish national, would not have counted in the merit table. Spain, France, Germany and Italy are among the bigger players on the Challenge Tour and all hold closed tournaments. England, despite fielding the most professionals, stages only one event on the schedule.

'It should be down to you against the rest of the field, not down to politics,' White said. 'Bodies like the Spanish Federation sponsor tournaments and hold the cards. We could get 50 English guys and sponsor our own tournament but it wouldn't be in the spirit of the whole thing.'

Next year White will play in local pro-ams ('a chance to win a couple of hundred quid'), probably a few events on the main tour and spend about pounds 600 a week, without a caddie, on the Challenge Tour. If he gets his card a seat on the chauffeured Volvo Tour, where millionaires are made, will be available.

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