Stephen Browne’s bid to repeat his 2005 success at this week’s Kazakhstan Open has turned the Irishman into superstitious man.
The 33 year old arrived at the Nurtau Golf Club in Almaty and immediately sought out the same local caddie who carried his bag to victory two years ago, before checking into the same onsite hotel with his 2005 room-mate, Colm Moriarty.
While Browne took the title in 2005, Moriarty finished second, and both men would be delighted to repeat that result which would all but guarantee their places on The 2008 European Tour via the top 20 on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
“Winning here two years ago is still the highlight of my golfing life,” said Browne. “It’s great to be back here in Kazakhstan. The memories of 2005 are still very fresh and I have gone a bit superstitious this week with the same caddie and room-mate.
“I know for a fact that Colm would take finishing second this week before we have even hit a ball because that would win him a Tour card. I’m obviously looking for the same result and the game feels good. I played well last week and was almost in contention so I am confident going into the tournament.
“There is a lot of expectation on me to do well because I won here two years ago and it’s a nice feeling coming back and getting a bit of attention from people at the Golf Club and the media.
“I have to perform though. The field is as strong as we can have on the Challenge Tour – and the prize money is obviously so important, especially at this stage of the season.
“The golf course at Nurtau has matured very well and the set-up this year is a lot tougher than we experienced in 2005. The rough is like US Open stuff and we have a great test ahead of us.”
With largest prize fund in the history of the Challenge Tour at €330,000 – with the winner set to pick up €52,800 – the Kazakhstan Open is the Challenge Tour’s major tournament of the year, the event that, given the choice, every player wants to win before any other full Challenge Tour event.
With that in mind, there is an extra edge of anticipation, excitement and nerves among the 132 man field.
Players like Browne, currently 64th on the Rankings with earnings of €17,453, can leap into the top 20 by taking the top prize at the Nurtau Golf Club, while the leading players will be eyeing the win that can see them topple current Number One, Felipe Aguilar of Chile.
Aguilar, of course, is among the favourites to take the title after his two victories in the past four weeks turned a great season into a sensational one, while the likes of Magnus A Carlsson, Robert Dinwiddie, Michael Lorenzo-Vera, Joost Luiten and Ross McGowan will be keen to continue close the gap on Aguilar.