Lyras, Heffernan lead chase for Australasian Tour card

Sydneysider John Lyras’s love affair with Moonah Links will reach new heights on Friday if he can maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard and claim the major prize on offer at the Final Stage of the PGA Tour of Australasia Qualifying School.

One of only three players to break 70 on Thursday as Peter Thomson’s imposing Open Course and the Mornington Peninsula’s wicked winds once again kept scoring in check, Lyras sits atop the leaderboard at 3-under par alongside Victorian Will Heffernan (71) heading into Friday’s final round.

David Micheluzzi (73) and Aaron Wilkin (70) are in a share of third just one shot further back with 2020 Australian Amateur champion Jed Morgan (73) and 2016 Hong Kong Open winner Sam Brazel (74) the only other players under par through 54 holes.

It was 12 months ago that Lyras, a member at St Michael’s Golf Club in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, birdied the 72nd hole to avoid a playoff for a PGA Tour of Australasia card and he held at least a share of the lead through the first three rounds of the Moonah Links PGA Classic in February, also played on the Open Course.

Although he succumbed to a blistering Bryden Macpherson final round that day to ultimately finish tied for fourth, the rewards on offer on Friday are just as significant, the winner receiving Category 9 exemption that would earn them automatic entry into each of the proposed 16 events for the 2021/22 PGA Tour of Australasia season.

The win would be just as significant for Heffernan, whose rookie year as a professional was decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heffernan had secured his immediate future by earning an Asian Tour card at Q School last January but the ongoing impact of the pandemic and travel restrictions has prevented Heffernan from taking his game overseas for the time being.

Despite registering top-10 finishes at both the ISPS HANDA Vic Open and Tailor-Made Building Services NT PGA Championship in 2020 Morgan has retained his amateur status to date, his transition into the professional ranks all the more smoother if he can secure playing rights on his home tour.

The incentive to finish first on Friday is significant but there is plenty to play for down the leaderboard also.

Players who finish from second to 30th will receive Category 13 status for the 2021/2022 season with those who finish higher boasting a greater likelihood of being exempt into all Tour events.

The PGA Tour of Australasia conducted a special New Zealand Qualifying School, which was held in conjunction with last week’s Muriwai Open.

Ten players competed for two category 13 tour cards, which was won by former Order of Merit champion Ryan Fox.

Luke Brown and Luke Toomey were successful in gaining these spots and ensuring they have regained their playing status for 2021/22.

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