Gary Stal, the Challenge Tour’s latest champion, is hoping to show he has what it takes to compete on The European Tour at the dual-ranking Saint-Omer Open presented by Neulfize OBC this week.
The 2011 French Amateur champion announced his arrival last week with victory in only his sixth Challenge Tour appearance, winning the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda by one shot from Englishman Daniel Brooks, and has now set his sights even higher.
Having joined the paid ranks at the end of last year, the 20 year old had already claimed his first professional title - the Internationaux de France on the Allianz Tour - before he showed considerable poise to win in Austria.
Now the Frenchman has had to adjust his goals for the season, and is in no doubt where he wants to be this time next year.
“I didn’t have a category on the Challenge Tour for this season, so the victory is worth much more than the prize money I won, as it gives me a full season now with a good category,” he said.
“I’ve already won once as a professional this year and I’ve been playing very well. I had nothing to lose in Austria. I maybe didn’t expect to win so quickly but I thought ‘Why not?’
“It was a fantastic feeling to win. I knew I have what it takes to compete at this level but the victory reaffirms that. My goal now is to finish in the top ten of the Rankings and play on The European Tour next season.”
Stal is confident he can produce another good performance in the €500,000 Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC this week.
“I was already invited to play in the Saint-Omer Open before my victory in Austria, so I knew this was a big opportunity to do well,” he continued. “It’s a big event for Challenge Tour players because of the increased prize money.
“I’ve gone up to seventh in the Rankings so this is now a huge chance to move up even further and boost my chances of finishing in the top ten or the top 20.
“I know I’m playing well, my confidence is high and I like this course, so there’s no reason why I can’t do well this week.”
Stal has the benefit of having his father as his caddie, as Tommy Fleetwood, last year’s Challenge Tour champion, did last season.
“I’ve played golf since I was three years old,” he said. “My family lived on a golf course and my father would take me with him to play almost as soon as I could walk. He played all the time and has a handicap of seven now. I’ve always wanted to play golf for as long as I can remember.
“My father is my caddie now so the roles have changed. It’s nice having him with me as I’m just starting out as a professional and getting used to the travelling involved with playing on the Challenge Tour. He enjoys it too and was very proud to be there for my win last weekend.
“My other love apart from golf is tennis. I play when I can and I enjoy watching. My favourite players are Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. I watched as much of Roland Garros as I could last week when I wasn’t on the golf course, although I missed the final on Sunday. But winning the tournament made up for that.”