Challenge Tour champion Jamie Moul is hoping for a triumphant homecoming at this week’s English Challenge, which is played at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa, his home club near Colchester, in Essex, England.
The Englishman can expect a bumper turnout at the second edition of the tournament, having followed up his maiden Challenge Tour victory at the Acaya Open a fortnight ago with another impressive performance at last week’s Credit Suisse Challenge, where he finished runner-up to climb to fourth in the Challenge Tour Rankings and within sight of a place on The European Tour next year.
Moul narrowly missed the cut 12 months ago at the inaugural edition of the English Challenge, which was won by Australia’s Daniel Gaunt, but the former World Amateur Number One is confident of giving the locals something to cheer about this time around.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it. I have lots of friends and family from nearby who come and watch, and the members of the club are great at giving me plenty of support. There should be quite a few people up there watching me, especially after my win in Italy, so it’s an extra incentive – I can’t wait. I haven’t actually been home since my win because I went straight to Switzerland from Italy the day after, so it’ll be nice to catch up with a few people – although I might delay any celebrations until the week after.
“Getting the win probably takes some of the pressure off me, if anything. Because I got my first win under my belt and some money on the board, I can probably relax and enjoy it a bit more. I missed the cut last year, although I actually played quite nicely – I just didn’t hole any putts. It was just one of many tournaments last year which didn’t go quite according to plan, but I’m feeling much better about my game now, so hopefully I can have a better week this time. After finishing first and second in my last two events, I’d probably take third this week – although I’d obviously love to win it!”
Moul knows every contour of the stunning Gainsborough Course, having grown up playing at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa before taking on the role of the club’s touring professional when he relinquished his amateur status in 2007. The 26 year old, who was born in Chelmsford and still lives in Colchester, is now hoping to make the most of his home advantage at this week’s €160,000 event.
He said: “It’s quite an undulating course, so you very rarely have a flat lie. It can be tricky. It tends to get a bit hard, so you’ve got to be careful where you land the ball. The rough is going to be a little bit longer this year than it was last year, so you’ve also got to be a bit careful with the run-offs from the fairways.
“You can be quite aggressive, and there are plenty of birdie opportunities. Most of the par fives are reachable in two, depending on the wind direction. It’s not the longest course ever, and there are a few par fours where you just have a wedge into the green. You’ve just got to know when to attack it because whilst there are a few easy holes, there are also holes that can jump up and bite you.
“The best run of holes is the tenth and 11th. The tenth is probably the hole that everyone remembers because you play over the same lake twice. The 11th is a 215-yard par three, and off the back tees it’s tight as well. Those two holes are lovely, and the 18th is a great par three over the water to finish.
“The greens are usually very good. I played there a couple of weeks ago, and they are in good shape. I’m sure they will get even better by the time the tournament comes around.”
His compatriot Tommy Fleetwood – like Moul a product of the English Golf Union (EGU) who, along with Hambric Sports Group, are again supporting the tournament – will be hoping to go one better this year, having finished one stroke behind Gaunt as an amateur 12 months ago.
Shortly after joining the professional ranks, Fleetwood secured the second runner-up finish of his fledgling Challenge Tour career at the M2M Russian Challenge Cup, and the 20 year old from Merseyside already has four top 12 finishes to his name so far this season.
Another young Englishman guided through the ranks by the EGU, 19 year old Chris Lloyd, has also performed creditably in his first full season on the Challenge Tour, and the boy from Bristol currently sits 16th in the Rankings with earnings of €38,168, thanks chiefly to top ten finishes at the Mugello Tuscany Open (second) and the ALLIANZ Challenge de France (tied seventh).