On the surface of it, Max Kieffer’s desire to become the best golfer from his home town might not seem the loftiest of ambitious. But when you consider that a certain Martin Kaymer also emanates from Düsseldorf, achieving his aim will be no mean feat.
Six years after Kaymer took the Challenge Tour by storm as a fresh-faced 21 year old, winning on his professional debut at the Vodafone Challenge – played in Düsseldorf – and subsequently adding the Challenge de France title to finish fourth in the Rankings after just eight appearances, Kieffer claimed his debut title at the same age to take his first tentative steps towards emulating his idol.
There was more than a hint of Kaymer’s famed mental fortitude in Kieffer’s victory at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, where he disappointed a partisan crowd with his play-off victory over home hero Rahil Gangjee.
The defining moment came at the 16th hole, where Kieffer piled the pressure on his playing partner by holing a monster putt which had the German celebrating in a manner which briefly belied his icy Teutonic calm.
Gangjee subsequently missed his par putt from four feet, and the two-shot swing ultimately proved to be the turning point in a victory which moved Kieffer to the top of Challenge Tour Rankings, and banished the disappointment of losing out in a play-off to his compatriot Nicolas Meitinger at last year’s Challenge de France.
Victory at the 2006 edition of that tournament effectively sealed Kaymer’s graduation to The European Tour, since when his meteoric rise has seen him become his country’s – and, for a period last year, even the world’s – pre-eminent golfer.
As Kaymer is six years older the relationship between the two men is more akin to acquaintances than friends, with Kieffer closer to Phillip Kaymer, who last year caddied for his brother at the Volvo World Match Play Championship and competed alongside him at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
But it is Martin to whom Kieffer looks for inspiration as he bids to continue what has been a rapid rise up the golfing ladder since his conversion to the professional ranks at the end of 2010.
He said: “He’s obviously my idol, and what he has done for German golf – especially after winning the US PGA Championship – is absolutely huge. Two years ago, reaching The European Tour and playing in Major tournaments seemed so far away; but seeing what Martin has done has really inspired me to work hard, and hopefully I will get my rewards.
“Winning the first tournament of the season has given me a great chance of finishing in the top 20 of the Rankings, but only if I play well for the rest of the season. The aim now is to win again, just like Martin did when he was on the Challenge Tour, and maybe then I can think about playing with him on The European Tour.”
In the more immediate future, Kieffer will prepare for his next Challenge Tour appearance, at the inaugural Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic, with a visit to a training camp in Arizona – which, incidentally, is also where Kaymer was anointed the World Number One, having reached the final of last year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
From America, Kieffer will then fly south to Barranquilla to continue his quest to earn a coveted European Tour card.
He said: “I’m now really excited about the rest of the season, because I’ve proved to myself – and everyone else – that I’m good enough to win on the Challenge Tour. After losing the play-off to Nicolas in France last year, I was disappointed not to get into contention again for the rest of the season. But now I need to build on my win in India, which has inspired me to work even harder.
“It’s a great start to the season, but if I don’t maintain the same standard for the rest of the season then it will have been a waste. Now that I’m at the top of the Rankings, my main motivation is to stay there for as long as possible. Winning the Rankings is something even Martin didn’t achieve, so that would make me very proud.”