Espen Kofstad might consider making Puglia his second home after his success this season in the southern Italian region.
In July the 25 year old claimed his maiden professional title in the Doubletree by Hilton Acaya Open, and on Saturday, about an hour’s drive away from the scene of that success, he swept to a potentially career-changing victory in the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
The €56,650 first prize propelled him to the top of the Rankings – he had gone into the final tournament in 11th place – making him the first Norwegian Challenge Tour Number One.
It might have all been very different for Kofstad, had he followed in the footsteps of his mother, who was a European skiing champion in the 1970s. Instead of carving out a career on the pistes, though, he is forging a future on the fairways and will embark on a rookie European Tour season in 2013.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Those last two rounds are probably the best I’ve ever played. I didn’t make a bogey in 36 holes. I felt like I was in complete control of everything, despite the pressure I was under.
“I might have to move here. I don’t know what it is about this place. I love the food and the climate is really nice. I seem to cope very well with the greens here. I find them very easy to read and I holed some great putts this week.
“At the start of the season my coach and I decided the target would be three wins and a place in the top ten. I’ve only won twice, but I’ll take it.”
While some other players know from an early age that they want to be a professional golfer, for Kofstad it only hit him five years ago.
“It wasn’t really until the second year of college that I realised I could make a career out of playing golf professionally,” he said. “I went to the University of Denver and in the first year I just kind of went along for the ride. Then I won a tournament the following year and thought to myself, ‘This wouldn’t be too bad’.
“I started when I was about five. My uncle and aunt played a lot. We would go to play a course in Sweden, which was a little boat ride away from our summer house. The summer house was in Norway, right on the border, and it was 15 minutes by boat from the golf club.
“I really liked it and I got good very quickly. I played all through my childhood and in amateur competitions in my teens.”
Kofstad played his first Challenge Tour season in 2011 and showed glimpses of his potential, recording four top ten finishes, but this season he has come into his own and a spell in July, when he finished first, third and tied fifth in consecutive weeks, sparked his campaign into life.
“Winning in Acaya was huge because it gave me so much confidence,” he said. “Suddenly I knew I could win, and after that I went into every tournament knowing I could beat all the other guys out there.”
Now Kofstad faces the task of attempting to mix it at the top level, and he will not have to wait too long for his next challenge to begin.
“I’ll be playing the SA Open Championship next month, which is still part of the 2012 schedule, and then I’ll go to the two in South Africa in December which are on the 2013 schedule,” he said.
“I’m really excited to get going and about what lies ahead next year. At the start of the week I was hoping to keep hold of 11th place, or maybe even improve on it by a few spots. To win and go top of the Rankings is a dream come true and I’m going to savour every minute.”
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