Didier de Vooght is confident that the European Challenge Tour’s return to his home country for the Telenet Trophy can spark a professional golfing renaissance in Belgium and give the next generation of Belgian talent the opportunity to see how far they have to go to make the grade in the professional game.
It has been nine years since the Challenge Tour was last in Belgium, and this week’s event at the Limburg Golf and Country Club in the town of Houthalen will give Belgium’s most talented young players the chance to gauge their skills against some of Europe’s most promising professionals.
De Vooght, 32, has featured on The European and Challenge Tours for the majority of his eight years as a professional and is therefore well placed to measure the current state of Belgian golf against the Continent’s top two Tours.
He believes that Telenet Trophy was inspired by the new found ambition within the Royal Belgium Golf Federation, and that if the Federation can continue to take forward steps then Belgium’s future professionals can benefit from playing at the highest level.
“It’s brilliant for Belgian golf that the Challenge Tour is coming back to Belgium,” said de Vooght, who won the Challenge Tour’s Fortis Bank Challenge Open in 2002.
“Our Federation recently elected a new President and he understands that you cannot stand still if you want to produce and develop more quality players.
“That is a big reason why we are able to stage this tournament and it is the only way to go forward. The tournament will also give the Belgian people the chance to see how high the standard is out here on the Challenge Tour, because that is something that people do not really understand.
“Even the people back home that know of the Challenge Tour players like myself, Nicolas Vanhootegem and Jerome Theunis, do not fully appreciate what the Challenge Tour is. Okay, they know that the Challenge Tour is the second division of European golf, but they are not aware of how good the players are, and hopefully this week the guys will show the people who are watching just how good that standard is.”
That high standard will be on show at the Limburg Golf and Country Club, where, Challenge Tour Number One Johan Axgren of Sweden will headline the field, along with 2006 tournament winners, David Drysdale of Scotland, Mexico’s Antonio Maldonado and Frenchman Anthony Snobeck.
De Vooght reckons the Limburg Golf and Country Club is a fitting venue to host Axgren and Company.
He said: “I think it will be a great tournament. They have done a lot of work on the golf course over the last three months and it is really in good shape. They have put in four new tees which add a bit of length and improve the course and, when I played there just over a week ago, the greens were perfect.”