Englishman Matthew Southgate is relishing a week of home comforts at this week’s English Challenge at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa in Essex.
The 23 year old from Southend will be surrounded by family and friends and will able to stay with his girlfriend, Hannah, the sister of European Tour player Jamie Moul, as he seeks to maintain the form which earned him a fourth place finish in last week’s Double Tree by Hilton Acaya Open, helped by a five under par 65 in the final round.
However, that performance was only the second time Southgate has made the cut in 11 appearances between The European Tour and the Challenge Tour this year, and the Qualifying School graduate admits some home support will be very welcome.
“The main reason I decided to play in the English Challenge instead of Austria (the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity) was to get back in my comfort zone and try to get some money on the board in the Challenge Tour Rankings,” said Southgate.
“I need to have a back-up plan. I could do with a couple of good weeks on the Challenge Tour to make sure I’ve got a card for next season. That would give me the freedom to play a few events on the main Tour towards the end of the season, safe in the knowledge that I have some sort of category for 2013.
“Hannah lives about ten minutes away, and my mum and stepdad are close as well, so hopefully a few friends and family will be able to come up and watch. My mum hasn’t watched me on Tour yet this year, but she’ll be at Stoke by Nayland all week, and my two little nephews will be making an appearance too which will be great.
“I’ve played Stoke by Nayland plenty of times and it’s Jamie and Hannah’s home course, so I know it well.”
In addition to playing the 7,134-yard, par 72 course numerous times, Southgate has some added knowledge garnered from when he caddied for Italian legend Constantino Rocca in the 2008 Weston Homes PGA International Seniors.
“Constantino has a good friend who lives in Southend, and I was best mates with his son,” he added. “So I caddied for him a few times.”
Despite those experiences, Southgate admits to still being in awe of some of the players when he plays on The European Tour, a feeling that is gradually diminishing.
“When I played in South Africa at the start of the year, I was practising putting to a hole, and another ball went to the same hole,” he said. “I looked up and it was Retief Goosen, and I couldn’t help being star-struck.
“That’s part of the problem – being out of your comfort zone. When you go to a main Tour event, you’re thinking ‘There’s Lee Westwood, there’s Graeme McDowell’, and your brain is suddenly saying you have to play brilliantly just to make the cut, which isn’t the case. It’s still just you and the golf course.
“That’s the approach I will take to Stoke by Nayland and if I play well I know I’ll have a good finish. I’d also like to say good luck to all the England Golf boys who have invites.”
Espen Kofstad the winner in Italy last week, is also in the field for the €160,000 event, as is Challenge Tour Rankings leader Gary Lockerbie.