So I'm into my first season as a professional and it's been a fun and interesting start. I have 7 starts on the Challenge Tour and now a full category on the Europro Tour ,which I managed to secure at their Q school in March.
My first Challenge tour start this season seemed a long time coming after having to wait until the end of April. The Challenge Tour doesn't start until mid- March and so from main Tour Q school in November through until then you don't have a lot to play in unless you have a full tour card or you decide to play on some of the many winter mini tours. My winter consisted of a few good results on the TP Tour and the Algarve Tour in Portugal with my best being tied for second place in Palmares.I then spent a couple of weeks Stateside back at my Alma mater Stanford. One of the many great things about Stanford Golf is that Coach Ray allows ex team members who are now professionals to come back and use the facilities. This was a great help to sharpen the game for the year ahead.
Turkey was to be my first event on Challenge. It was my second time to the country but my first time to the Belek area, known for its abundance of well designed golf courses and beachside hotels. The Turkish Challenge was held at Gloria Golf Resort, which was a course I thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately I missed the cut by one stroke, but in fairness it fell at -4 and I was actually +4 through the first 6 holes and fought back to -3 so there were plenty of positives to take forward. I had a chance to practice hard over the weekend and get myself ready for the next event. That's one of the interesting things about life on tour - once a week is over its straight into the next event. Like a conveyor belt it never stops and whether you've had a great week or not, the following Thursday, all is forgotten and a new tournament starts. In this case the winner was Joachim Hansen of Denmark on -18.
A 9pm Sunday flight back from Antalya arriving into Stansted at midnight, 4 hours sleep in a airport Holiday Inn, a 7am flight out to Bilbao and a 1hour and 30 minute drive later, I arrived at the next stop. The Challenge De España was being held at Izki Golf Club ,at Urturi in the heart of Basque Country. It was high up in the mountains, at altitude and very cold (highs of 6/7 Celsius the first two days) so the ball wasn't flying as far as it might normally. I was lucky to experience some incredible views from the top of the mountain my housemates and I had to travel over every day to get to the club. The course itself was very cool too, and, being a Seve Ballesteros design, it had a lot of unusual holes with some great par 3s and some serious shot making required on many tees. I played solid again, this time making the cut on level par and finishing T34th after four rounds. I was pleased to have my first Challenge Tour points finish of the year under the belt! The winner was Oscar Lengden from Sweden on -15. Fortunately I had arranged to travel back on the Monday evening so was able to spend a day sightseeing around Bilbao which has a beautiful centre despite being quite an industrial city.
My first Europro event was up next during the third week of May. Frilford Heath is beginning to feel almost like a second home to me since I've played in a couple of European Tour Stage 1-Q schools there now as well as a Europro Q school earlier this year ! Situated just south of Oxford, Frilford Heath is a fantastic club with three courses, a par 3 course, and great practice facilities and was a nice place to start the Europro season. My golf was a little bit up and down, finishing in a tie for 32nd but there were positives in my back nine 2nd round of -3 to make the cut comfortably and then lots more good golf in there too. The Europro Tour is a very high standard and the winning score that week was -11 from Paul O’Hara through just 3 rounds. There are 15 events through the year to September and the top 5 players on the seasons order of merit will gain full Challenge Tour status next year so there is a lot of incentive to play well.
As I write this blog I am currently in the Czech Republic for my next Challenge Tour start. It's a golf course I've played before and in a lovely part of the country about an hours drive from Prague.
I'm looking forward to competing in the US Open Qualifying again in early June at Walton Heath. It's a great event and hopefully I can pull off some of last year's memories!