Scotland’s Jack Doherty is hoping for a belated birthday present at this week’s ALLIANZ Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne, the first event of the 2012 Challenge Tour season on European soil.
Doherty celebrated his 30th birthday at the weekend before getting down to the serious work of preparing for this week’s €160,000 event, which is being held at Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André, in the Bretagne region of northern France, for the sixth successive season.
After finishing a career-high of 79th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings last season, Doherty came into the current campaign with high hopes of earning a European Tour card for the first time, only for missed cuts in India and Kenya to knock his confidence.
But having made some encouraging strides under the tutelage of his coach Bill Lockie in recent weeks, Doherty – one of the five Team Scottish Hydro members unveiled last week – has arrived in Pléneuf Val André in good heart.
He said: “I played quite nicely in Colombia, so that was encouraging. It was obviously disappointing to then miss the cut in Kenya, but after a nice wee break I’m ready to go again. It’s going to be a long season because I should get into most events, so it was good to recharge the batteries.
“I’ve been practising really hard, and hopefully it’ll start paying off soon. The work I’ve been doing with Bill in recent weeks has been coming along quite nicely. He’s seen a lot of improvements in my game, so I’m feeling much more positive about my chances. I’ve been with Bill for about two-and-a-half years, so hopefully we’re now starting to see the fruits of our labour.”
With his native Scotland, and indeed most of the United Kingdom, having been buffeted with wind and rain in recent weeks, it is not only his new swing changes with which Doherty has had to contend.
But with cool temperatures, high winds and squally showers forecast to arrive in Brittany from tomorrow, Doherty feels well prepared to win his battle with the elements.
He said: “I’ve not played here for two years, and the course was really bouncy the last time I played. But it’s a lot greener and a lot softer this week, so the course is playing a bit longer but it also means you fancy your chances of hitting your approach shots close.
“A lot will come down to the conditions, because the wind is picking up as we speak. But that would be no bad thing for me, because I’ve played in windy conditions back home and I practise a lot in the wind, so it would probably help my chances if it was to blow this week.”
With €675,000 – capped at €500,000 for the purposes of the Challenge Tour Rankings – up for grabs at the Madeira Islands Open, which is also being played this week, Doherty could be forgiven for thinking what might have been had he not withdrawn as the first reserve from the tournament at the 11th hour.
But with no guarantees that he would be permitted to compete for the sizeable prize fund on offer at Santo da Serra, Doherty was minded to recall Edith Piaf’s classic hit song, “Non, je ne regrette rien”.
He said: “I don’t have any regrets. I was the first reserve on Sunday night and I then held on until 3pm on Monday, when I had a phone call from the Tour to say I needed to make a decision. Any other week I would’ve gone, but I didn’t want to go there, not get in, and then miss the chance to play here instead. So I’m happy with the decision I’ve made, and hopefully I can make the most of my chance here this week.”