European Tour champions Stephen Dodd and Phillip Price will this week spearhead a strong home challenge in the seventh edition of the SWALEC Wales Challenge.
The duo, who between them have captured six European Tour titles, will be joined by 22 fellow Welshmen – six of them amateurs – in the €150,000 event, which will again be held at The Vale Hotel, Golf and Spa Resort near Cardiff.
Dodd and Dredge have vast experience of golf at the highest level for, aside from their European Tour triumphs, Dodd partnered Bradley Dredge to World Cup success for Wales in 2005 while Price memorably defeated Phil Mickelson in the singles to help Europe to Ryder Cup success at The Belfry in 2002.
In his formative professional years, Dodd also tasted success on the European Challenge Tour with victories in the 1991 Memorial Olivier Barras in Switzerland and the 1992 Bank Austria Open and will be aiming for a hat-trick when he tees up at the 7,266 yards, par 72 National Course.
“It’s a great event for me to play in, because it’s close to home and it’s always nice to support tournaments in Wales,” said Dodd. “It’s also a chance for me to play some really competitive golf during a time when I have more weeks off than I would like.
“It’ll give me a chance to do a lot of work, and help me get ready for the second half of the season. My game is getting better and better. I think that is reflected in my results but there is still a lot of work to be done and to get the results back to where they were.
“I think the standards on the Challenge Tour are improving all the time. Everyone is improving and working hard on their games, so if you’re not getting better these days then you’re going backwards.
“The Challenge Tour gives players great experience of the culture of touring professionals, from a competitive point of view on the course, and from a travelling point of view as well. The Challenge Tour is a great opportunity for young players to make their way in the game.”
Included in the Welsh contingent on show this week is Rhys Davies, who equalled the course record 67 on day two of last year’s event, and made his Open Championship debut last week, having successfully negotiated his way through International Final Qualifying.
Another two players who competed at Turnberry - the Scottish Saltman brothers Elliot and Lloyd – will arrive in Cardiff attempting to halt the Irish dominance of the tournament in recent years, with Michael McGeady succeeding his compatriot Colm Moriarty as champion last year.
McGeady defeated Joel Sjöholm on the third hole of a sudden death play-off, and will hope to draw on that experience as he bids to inject life into his season.
He said: “I remember being in a good frame of mind all week, and playing good, sensible golf. I holed some great putts over the last five holes which got me into the play-off, and fortunately I held my nerve.
“It was lovely to win, and I’m looking forward to defending. I need to do well in these next few events to get my season going. I feel I’ve been playing well and just not bringing it to the golf course, but hopefully that’ll all change this week.”
Other notable names in the field include 2006 winner Sion E Bebb of Wales, his compatriot Mark Pilkington, who topped the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2006, and Reinier Saxton, the young Dutchman who won the 2008 Amateur Championship, which was held at Turnberry.
The field also includes five players who have won on the Challenge Tour already this season: the English quartet of Peter Baker, Andrew Butterfield, Robert Coles and Lee S James, alongside Italian Edoardo Molinari.