In the first of our ‘Challenge Tour Players Around the World’ series, Austria’s Florian Praegant tells us how he plans to bounce back from the disappointment of just missing out on a European Tour card last year and also discusses the rise of Austrian golf.
Bright-eyed and full of confidence, Florian Praegant’s face told a very different story at the Barclays Kenya Open earlier this month from the one which displayed such disappointment at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final five months ago.
Despite a commendable performance last November at the Challenge Tour’s tense season finale in Italy, where the Austrian finished in tied 12th spot, he fell just €905 short of a top 20 finish in the Rankings and a European Tour card.
However, the 28 year old has taken plenty of positives from the 2011 season, which included an appearance in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in December where he represented his country with Roland Steiner, and he is feeling confident he can atone for last year’s disappointment by earning promotion to The European Tour this time around.
“I was just one shot away at the Grand Final and finished 22nd(in the Rankings),” said Praegant. “It was still a good year though, so I can’t dwell on it. I had a good season last year, especially with my putting. I hope I can do the same this year on the greens. I have a month now to do some good working out and good practising.
“It’s good that I can take April off to do some extra work and get fit for when the season really kicks off in May. I’m really looking forward to the season, I’m feeling good. Last year, just a few shots better and things could have been so different for me.”
Praegant’s best finish last year was a runner-up spot at the Norwegian Challenge, where he just missed out on his maiden Challenge Tour victory by losing to Andrea Pavan in a play-off; but the 28 year old feels he could have challenged for more titles had he performed better on championship Sundays.
“I had two or three tournaments where I played really bad final rounds after being in the top two or three, dropping down to the 20s and 30s, so I need to sort this out. I need to improve on the final day. Maybe it’s just experience of not putting too much pressure on yourself and just playing your own game.
“There were some decisions from the tee, under pressure, that weren’t so good last year so I can take that into this year and make sure I take it easier and don’t try so hard to win. It would be great to get a win on the board this year and finish in the top ten or 15 in the Rankings.”
With the likes of Challenge Tour champions Markus Brier, Martin Wiegele and Bernd Wiesberger impressing on The European Tour in recent years, Praegant believes that Austrian golf is growing stronger every year and that the amateur system in his home country is benefiting from increasing professionalism.
“In the last few years, Austrian golf has been getting a lot better – on The European Tour, on the Challenge Tour and in amateur golf,” he said. “We have four players on The European Tour, which is really good for us because there are not that many touring professionals in Austria, only about ten to 15. We have a couple more on the Challenge Tour too and last year we had a European Amateur champion, Manuel Trappel, so he’ll be playing The Open Championship this year.
“There are some really good amateurs coming through - they’re doing good fitness work and good camps with the Federation in Florida and Portugal and other places, so that’s really important.
“I think it’s become even more serious with the younger guys, they are getting more serious about becoming professionals so that’s been a big step. Maybe they see what we can do out on these Tours and are encouraged by that. They have good talent so they just need to practise more and I think there will be a lot more (Austrian) guys on the Challenge Tour and The European Tour in future.”