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Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Tapio Pulkkanen  (Getty Images)
Tapio Pulkkanen (Getty Images)
Tapio Pulkkanen is being lauded as the biggest prospect in Finnish golf and the young man believes he is hitting form at just the right time as he chases a maiden European Challenge Tour victory on home soil at the Finnish Challenge this week.

The 23 year old, recognisable from a distance for the unique trilby hat he regularly wears, burst on to the Challenge Tour scene in his first appearance of his maiden season when he finished runner-up to François Calmels at the Challenge de Madrid in April.

The man from Kotka in southern Finland has struggled to emulate that early success thus far but feels a familiarity with the course this week, as well as increasing confidence on the Challenge Tour, could signal another big result on Kytäjä Golf’s North West course, in Hyvinkää near Helsinki.

“I’m starting to feel good again so I’m looking forward to this week,” said Pulkkanen. “I like the North West course because it’s wide and you can hit driver a lot and hit a lot of wedges in so it’s pretty nice.

“It was a really good start on the Challenge Tour this year. I played two satellite tour events before Madrid and was second in both so it was a good start but since then, I have been struggling a lot with my putting as well as my wedge play. 

“I practice here quite a bit at Kytäjä. While I’m not from nearby, my girlfriend lives quite close so I have been here a lot. I have played the other course (South East) mostly but they are both good courses.

“It feels more comfortable playing at home so it will be a nice week. My brother is caddying for me so that is going to be cool. I haven’t had a caddy with me all year so it’s my first time. I think my family will come later in the week and my girlfriend will be here too.”

Pulkkanen did not reach the peak of the world amateur game as a youth but is highly regarded as one of the top up and coming Finns, among a group of experienced pros on the Challenge Tour this season, including Roope Kakko, Mikko Korhonen and Janne Mommo.

“As an amateur my best ranking was 40th in the world,” he said. “I played really well in the Finnish amateur scene mostly, but nothing major internationally.

“I turned professional over the winter so this is my first year as a pro. That result in Madrid definitely helped because now I know if I play to my best I can be right up there. It really gives me confidence and it is a similar course to Madrid this week so it’s possible that I can do well.”

And what about that hat?

“There is no real story behind that to be honest,” he said. “I have just worn it for about seven years or so and now I can’t do without it!

“I don’t know what I am going to do with sponsors on my hat yet, nobody has asked yet but I’m not sure what I will do then.”

Home hopes will also rest on Kakko, who is 21st in the Challenge Tour Rankings after an impressive start to the season.

Shiv Kapur, meanwhile, makes his first start on the Challenge Tour since his brief stint at the top of the leaderboard at The Open Championship in Muirfield, where the Indian birdied six of the opening seven holes on day one to move top momentarily.

There are plenty of other players in the field at Kytäjä Golf with big-time experience, including former Ryder Cup players Jarmo Sandelin and Oliver Wilson as well as three-time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty.

Kapur, who earned his maiden Challenge Tour title at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in his home country, is also joined by six other winners from the 2013 Challenge Tour season, including François Calmels, who only needs one more victory to earn automatic promotion The European Tour.


 

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1JOANNES, HuguesBEL00:00-
T1BOSSERT, AndréSUI00:00-
T1FIGUEIREDO, PedroPOR00:00-
T1MATTILA, RikuFIN00:00-
T1NØRRET, ThomasDEN00:00-
T1DAHLGREN, NiklasFIN00:00-
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