Six years after winning as a 16 year old amateur at Poggio dei Medici Golf Club, Andrea Pavan will this week bid to preserve his 100 per cent record at the Florence venue in the Mugello Tuscany Open.
Pavan succeeded his compatriot Francesco Molinari as winner of the 2005 Italian Amateur Stroke Play Championship, beating Federico Colombo – who is also in the field for this week’s €150,000 event – into second place.
The win was one of five victories on home soil in an impressive amateur career for the 22 year old, who was fifth on the R&A’s World Amateur Rankings, second on the EGA’s European Amateur Rankings and first in the Italian National Rankings when he joined the professional ranks last year.
The Rome resident – who is sponsored by San Domenico Golf, host venue for the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final – is making only his third Challenge Tour appearance, having finished joint 20th and tied 33rd at the Barclays Kenya Open and last week’s Allianz Challenge de France respectively.
But Pavan, a winner on the collegiate circuit in America during his time at the University of Texas A&M, is hopeful that a return to Poggio dei Medici in Scarperia GC, near Florence, will inspire him to become the first Italian to triumph on the Challenge Tour on home soil since his management company stablemate Edoardo Molinari, who won both the Italian Federation Cup and the Roma Golf Open en route to topping the Rankings with record earnings in 2009.
Pavan, who finished in a tie for 22nd place as an amateur on his European Tour debut at last year’s BMW Italian Open, said: “My win at the Italian Amateur Stroke Play Championship was the only time I have played the course, so I have a 100 per cent record there – hopefully I can keep it going this week! I don’t really remember too much about the course, but I’m sure it’ll bring back some good memories when I get there. Federico finished runner-up, so I’m sure he’ll want to get his revenge!”
Colombo heads to Tuscany in good form, having followed up his tied sixth finish at the Barclays Kenya Open with a tied 21st finish at Golf Disneyland last week; and the 23 year old, who finished 30th in the 2010 Challenge Tour Rankings, is confident of keeping the run going at the 7,114 yards, par 71 course.
He said: “I didn’t play that well at last year’s Mugello Tuscany Open, mainly because I was in the middle of making some swing changes. But I do like the course, and I played well when I finished runner-up there behind Andrea in 2005. I’ve heard from a few of the guys that it’s in really great condition, especially the greens, so if the weather’s good we should be in for a really fun week.
“Tuscany is one of the best regions in Italy. The food and the wine are very good, and the scenery is very beautiful. So I’m sure everyone will really enjoy the week, and I’m sure I will too – as long as I play well. But my results recently have been good and my game is getting there, so I’m feeling quite confident.”
The home challenge will be further bolstered by Alessandro Tadini, who was the last Italian to win on the Challenge Tour at last year’s Credit Suisse Challenge.
But perhaps the man they all have to beat is Germany’s Nicolas Meitinger, who captured his maiden Challenge Tour title at last week’s Allianz Challenge de France to leap to the top of the Rankings.
Meitinger saw off his compatriot Max Kieffer at the second extra hole at Golf Disneyland, and he will now hope to become the first player since England’s Iain Pyman in 2007 to win back to back events on the Challenge Tour.
Other players of note include Challenge Tour debutant Laurie Canter, the English amateur who qualified for The Open Championship last year and made the cut at last week’s Open de España on The European Tour.