Stephen Dodd, currently the highest ranked Welsh golfer in the world, will return to his roots when he tees up on home soil this week on the European Challenge Tour’s FIRSTPLUS Wales Challenge at the Vale Hotel Golf and Spa Resort.
Dodd captured his maiden European Tour title at the start of the season when he won the Volvo China Open. Since then his confidence has soared as he narrowly missed out on a second title in Dubai, when World Number Three Ernie Els leapfrogged him with a final hole eagle, and finished in the top ten in both Portugal and Spain.
It is undoubtedly his finest season to date and he currently lies sixth on The European Tour Order of Merit with €390,086. Only Retief Goosen, Els, Adam Scott, Luke Donald and Miguel Angel Jiménez have earned more than him this campaign.
But this week the former Challenge Tour player will return to his roots when he tees up in the FIRSTPLUS Wales Challenge. Whilst it is a significant coup for the tournament, it also gives the Challenge Tour Members an excellent opportunity to gauge their golfing skills against one of Europe’s best players.
Like Poulter, Dodd learned his trade on the Challenge Tour – his best season coming in the year 2000 when he finished 32nd on the Rankings which was good enough to take him to The European Tour Qualifying School Finals that same year, when he won his Tour Card and made it from there to where he is today.
Dodd said: “It is always good to be back playing at home, especially at one of Wales’s leading golf resorts. Golf in Wales is certainly on a high with the Ryder Cup coming here in 2010 and it is fantastic to see that we are able to attract world class sponsors, such as FIRSTPLUS.
“I have played the course two or three times and look forward to the challenge. It is only 20 minutes from where I live. I wasn’t going to play Italy but wanted to play competitive golf before heading to The Daily Telegraph Dunlop Masters at the Forest of Arden. You have a big run of tournaments so just need a week to get back into the swing of things.”
The FIRSTPLUS Wales Challenge is part of the successful bid to bring the Ryder Cup to Wales in 2010. The bid to bring the world’s third biggest sporting event to Wales was put together by a public/private sector partnership involving Newport City Council, Newport Unlimited, Sports Council for Wales, Wales Tourist Board, the Welsh Development Agency, the Welsh Golf Union and Welsh Ladies Golf Union.
Ryder Cup Wales 2010 has been established to deliver on the public sector commitments in the bid, including the annual ‘Wales Summer of Golf’ events, which in 2004 included the Ryder Cup Wales Challenge, the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open and the Wales – ‘Golf as it should be’ – Ladies Open.