Saturday, 20 May 2006

Toni Karjalainen’s new found mantra ‘free your mind and the rest will follow’ was put to the ultimate test during the third round of the European Challenge Tour’s Telenet Trophy as play was twice interrupted by violent lightning storms at the Limburg Golf and Country Club in Belgium. By maintaining his new philosophy, the Finn managed to completely ignore the harshest of elements and post an excellent five under par 67 to move into a two stroke lead over Frenchman Francois Calmels going into Sunday’s final round.

Not only are thunderstorms a golfers greatest fear, they are also one of the biggest sources of annoyance to any professional, bringing unwanted interruptions to carefully planned strategies and leading to hours of inactivity when all they want to do is get out on the course and do their jobs.

As the 62 men who made the halfway cut in Belgium were twice forced into the clubhouse at the Limburg Golf and Country Club, Karjalainen refused to be affected, and, as a result, coped best of all with the horrible conditions that blighted the third round.

Even when they did get out on the course, the players were battered by gusting winds and driving rain that, at one point, blew hard enough to destroy the main scoreboard outside the clubhouse.

Unbowed, Karjalainen set his mind only to the task ahead and produced a fantastic performance to move into the lead. He was level par when play was suspended for the first time and managed to pick up a birdie on the par four eighth when play resumed – only to hear the dreaded sound of the klaxons once more, forcing him back into the club house.

Again he was totally unaffected and when play started for the third time he defied the conditions with birdies at the tenth and difficult 14th before his perfect greenside pitch on the par five 18th sank below ground for an eagle.

“I said the other day that I have been using the mantra of ‘free your mind and the rest will follow’, and I think it fits in very well with golf, which is a game where things can change so quickly,” said the 26 year old Finn, who is chasing a second Challenge Tour title after winning the Thomas Björn Open presented by Multidata last season.

“You have to have your mind totally clear and just try as much as you can to become part of the game. The thing that kills you in golf is realising that there is danger everywhere out there on the course. When you start thinking like that then you are setting yourself up to make mistakes and for bad results, so I am very focused on keeping my mind totally blank.”

With such an attitude, Karjalainen will be a hard man to catch during the final round, and the chasing pack will have to make an impression on the leaderboard to try and get inside his head.

Calmels, who posted a third round 71 to move to eight under par 208, will lead the quest to disturb Karjalainen’s mindset, and he will be joined by the Argentinean Rafael Echenique, Spain’s Ivó Giner, and Englishman Gary Lockerbie, whose respective third rounds of 68, 73 and 69 kept them well in the hunt for the title on seven under par 209.

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