King’s Lynn-based Collison has chalked up three Challenge Tour victories and all have all been on Italian soil, the Open dei Tessai in 1995, and the Is Molas Challenge and Le Pavoniere Superal Challenge in successive weeks last year.
“I seem to like playing in Italy, it’s my happy hunting ground,” says Andrew. “I’m looking forward to defending the Is Molas title and I want to win it again but it’s going to be tough.”
That seems to be the key word for this tournament. The 6,980-yard, par-72, Is Molas course is a tough test on its own but last year the event was accompanied by cold, windy weather which provided an additional hurdle for the field to overcome.
As it turned out, only champion Collison and runner-up, Thomas Nielsen from Norway, finished under par while the halfway cut was exceptionally high at five-over-par 149.
“I remember last year was a bit of a struggle,” adds Collison. “The course is quite long and tough but we also had a keen wind which made it quite cold. It was real bobble-hat weather.”
Collison opened with a 71 which left him joint sixth and an identical score in round two lifted him to fourth. A third successive 71 put him two strokes clear going into the final day when he was paired with Nielsen.
“That last round was a real battle with Thomas,” says Andrew. “I remember there was only one shot in it after 10 holes but Thomas kept pressurising and dropped a couple of shots. Fortunately, I managed to stay ahead with a 68 and the final margin of victory, five shots, was a little flattering,” he adds modestly. Collison’s 281 was seven under and the fact that only he and Nielsen finished sub-par underlines just how tough conditions were.
The 28-year-old from Norfolk began his 1998 campaign on the Challenge Tour’s African swing with moderate success. He missed the cut in the opening event, the Ivory Coast Open, then finished joint 33rd in the Tusker Kenya Open.
“I didn’t play well in the Ivory Coast, I think the heat wore me down,” he says. “I did better in Kenya but overall I wasn’t displeased with my game in the first outings of the year.”
Andrew spent the winter improving his fitness and trying to relax after a long, hard season in 1997. “I worked a bit with Denis Pugh but I didn’t want to play too much during the winter so that I could build up my enthusiasm. Now I’m eager to play and looking forward to the season.”