Andreas Hartø is looking forward to returning to the ECCO Tour Championship hosted by Thomas Björn & Mercedes-Benz for the first time since he burst on to the scene by winning the tournament on his European Challenge Tour debut in 2010.
The Dane claimed an incredible victory as an amateur at the event two years ago at GreenEagle GC, in Germany, announcing his arrival on the European golfing scene before claiming another victory two months later at the Roma Golf Open 2010 – this time as a professional.
Whilst Hartø did not earn a top 20 finish in the Challenge Tour Rankings, having only played in four Challenge Tour events, his incredible rise continued as he secured a European Tour card at the Qualifying School Final Stage in December 2010.
The 24 year old struggled to find his feet on the big stage last year but a return to the Challenge Tour has resulted in a much more consistent run of form which has lifted him to fourth in the Rankings, and Hartø believes he will be a much better player for the experience if he regains his place on The European Tour next year.
“I know I can play at that level again,” said Hartø. “I’ve showed signs of it this year on the Challenge Tour, it’s just about doing it consistently. It’s getting closer and closer. These last couple of weeks I haven’t putted well, but in this game the margins are so small – if I can get some putts rolling in, I’ll be right up there.
“The two years since I won there have been a long run. I’ve said it a billion times, but I improved so much last year as a golfer. I played badly a lot of the time and struggled to deal with the step up, but I matured so much as a player.
“Looking back, 2010 was just one big joyride where I was playing the best golf I’ve ever played. I’ve played well this year too, but the way I was playing in the second half of 2010 is the benchmark. That’s what I’m always striving for. It was a crazy time, but so much fun.”
Despite his steady run of form this year, the Copenhagen man is yet to claim a third Challenge Tour title, but is looking forward to returning to his home country and knows the support he will receive could drive him in to a first victory in two years.
He said: “It’s a different course, but it’s the tournament that kick-started my career, so it’s a big event for me. I’m looking forward to playing in my home country – it will be the first time in quite a while, so it will be fun.
“Playing in your home country is such a nice feeling. You can speak your own language, and it’s always a nice atmosphere. The venue is quite far from where I live, but I’m sure there will still be people supporting me and rooting for me to do well.”
Other Danes in the field include the country’s breakthrough star on the Challenge Tour this year, Mortum Orum Madsen, who sealed a runner-up finish in his rookie season in the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic at the start of the year.
Lasse Jensen is another who has come close to victory this year, losing out in a play-off to Seve Benson at the Barclays Kenya Open in April, and Hartø has been delighted with this success of his compatriots this year.
“Danish golf is in a good place right now,” he said. “Thomas Björn had a great season last year, and this year Thorbjørn Olesen has broken through. He was on the Challenge Tour only two years ago, so it shows the rest of us guys that we can do that too. There are quite a few Danish guys doing well on the Challenge Tour this season, and there is momentum there. We are all pulling each other along, it’s great.”
Kristoffer Broberg will be chasing a third successive title at Stensballegaard Golf, in Horsens, after an incredible two weeks for the Swede in which he first claimed the Finnish Challenge with a six shot victory, before sealing a second title in just his third Challenge Tour appearance at the Norwegian Challenge last week, when he holed a 60 foot putt in the second play-off hole to beat Spain’s Alvaro Velasco, winner of the Rankings in 2010.
Frenchman Gary Stal is another player who will be chasing a third victory this week, which earns instant elevation to The European Tour, whilst three-time European Tour champion Nick Dougherty is also in the field for the €160,000 event.