England’s Benn Barham will continue his rehabilitation from life-saving surgery at the Allianz Challenge de France, the first Challenge Tour event of the 2011 season to be staged in Europe.
After an encouraging performance at the Barclays Kenya Open, where he finished in a tie for 63rd place on his first competitive outing since having his right kidney removed last October, Barham will take his next steps on what he hopes will be the road to full recovery at the €150,000 event, held at Golf Disneyland near Paris, France.
The 35 year old from Kent admits it was a relief to emerge from his comeback tournament relatively unscathed; though after opening with a round of 69 – which in the circumstances was nothing short of miraculous – he was mildly disappointed to drop down the leaderboard over the weekend.
But given that he had feared for his career in the dark days after the initial discovery of the tumour, Barham was naturally keen to accentuate the positives.
He said: “It doesn’t really matter what you go through or how long you have off, you still want to be competitive because that’s in a golfer’s nature. But it was quite an achievement just to tee up in Kenya in many ways, and then to play some decent golf on the first two days was even more of an achievement. My goal at the start of the week was just to make the cut and play all four rounds, so I was quite happy to achieve that. There were some encouraging signs, and also some things I need to work on.”
After returning home from Nairobi Barham threw himself into some charity work, hosting two Pro-Ams including one at the London Golf Club for Demelza Hospice Care for Children, before hitting the practice range with renewed vigour ahead of the Allianz Challenge de France, which takes place from May 5-8.
He said: “It’s all very well playing practice rounds or hitting balls out on the range, but playing in a tournament really brings your weaknesses into focus, so I now know the areas of my game I need to sharpen up. My short game needs some work and my driving was also a little bit erratic, but overall it was encouraging because I had been worried I might’ve completely lost my game after five months out.
“Just trying to get my strength and energy levels back up is the short-term goal, because I felt quite fatigued after Kenya. But that was understandable, because I played 18 holes every day that week, which is the first time I’d done that since my operation. So it’s going to take time, but I’m definitely on the right track. Hopefully I’ll feel fitter and stronger with every tournament. It was good to get my first tournament out of the way, and hopefully now I can get back to some sort of normality.”