Scotland’s Craig Lee is hoping to add a gloss finish to his superb season with a maiden Challenge Tour victory at this week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
The Stirling star, whose 23 appearances this year is the joint highest of any player on the Challenge Tour, has targeted the €56,650 winner’s cheque as the perfect sign-off to an impressively consistent campaign which has yielded four top ten finishes – including a tied second at the dual ranking SAINT-OMER Open presented by Neuflize OBC in June.
That proved the catalyst for his climb to 12th place in the Rankings, and whilst Lee is still in with a mathematical chance of topping the Challenge Rankings, should he win and current Number One Sam Little finish in 45th and last place, the main goal at San Domenico Golf – where he is making his debut appearance – is to rise two places into the top ten and increase his playing opportunities on The European Tour next term.
He said: “Finishing in the top ten of the Rankings would put the icing on what has been a very good year for me. I’d be absolutely delighted with that if somebody offered it to me now, although the goal – as with every week – is obviously to try to win the tournament.
“It’s a massive tournament, but I’ll not be approaching it any differently. I tried to change a couple of things before the Kazakhstan Open because that’s another huge event, but it didn’t pay off because I missed the cut. So I’ll just try to treat it as another tournament, even though it’s obviously a little bit special this week.
“It’s been a very relaxing and enjoyable week so far. With only 45 players in the field this week, it’s been pretty easy to get on the range and the practice green, and you can jump onto the course any time you want. So I’m really looking forward to the event, and any week where there’s no cut and a guaranteed cheque at the end of it is always nice.
“You can approach it two different ways – some guys might really go for it from the start because they feel like there’s nothing to lose, whereas others might try to gradually work their way into the tournament. I’ll try to go for a mixture of the two, and just hope that I can get the balance right.”
Having played more golf than nearly all of his rivals this season, Lee has perhaps struggled to strike the right balance between work and rest; but his stamina has held out impressively and with the batteries now fully recharged following a fortnight off, the 34 year old is poised for one last push before packing his clubs away and taking a well-earned break from the game.
He said: “The two-week break was much-needed, because I was starting to feel a wee bit tired after spending six weeks on the road. I couldn’t relax and unwind completely because I knew I had the biggest event of the year coming up, but it was still good to put the clubs away for a day or two. After this week I’ll take a bit of time off, but there probably won’t be much letting up on the physical side, because I need to get into shape for next year.
“I haven’t really looked at the provisional schedule for next season, but I won’t be going out to South Africa this side of Christmas. I’m not sure after that, but I’ll probably have a sit down after this week and start making a plan. I haven’t really focused on anything but this tournament for now. I said a couple of weeks ago that I hoped my highlight of the season was still to come, and hopefully I can end on a high with a win and have a nice fat cheque to spend at Christmas.”
Lee’s compatriot Chris Doak is the only other Scot in the 45-man field at San Domenico Golf, the 7,031 yards, par 71 course in the stunning Puglia region of southern Italy which has hosted the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final for the past six seasons.
Doak currently lies in 36th place in the Rankings on €42,808, and would in all probability need a top three finish to stand any chance of climbing into the all-important top 20 who will earn their cards for The 2012 European Tour International Schedule