Last year the Austrian mountains proved a beautiful backdrop to a picture perfect week for Dylan Frittelli, as he claimed a maiden Challenge Tour title at the Karnten Golf Open presented by Mazda. Europeantour.com’s Nick Totten walked a few holes with the South African to get a feel for what he looks for in a practice round, and how excited he is to be back to defend his title this week.
Tuesday’s on the Challenge Tour are good for one thing, and one thing only – practice, practice, practice. So having clipped away a few balls on the driving range to loosen up, it was time for Dylan Frittelli to head out and get to grips with this year’s new venue, Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein.
For the South African a practice round is all about getting to know a course, being comfortable with the look and feel of it, rather than making any steadfast plans as to how to attack it during the four tournament days.
With his good friend Travis Smith by his side, carrying his bag and offering advice, the mood was light and conversational as Frittelli strode the fairways and spoke of his approach to a Tuesday on Tour.
“For me the first practice round is really important,” said the 23 year old from Johannesburg, having just buttoned a mid-iron from the tee at the par three 11th hole. “It gives you a visual to work from. I’m just trying to familiarise myself with what everything looks like. I really take in the green complexes to see where you can miss it, where you can’t, and just get an overall feel for the golf course.
“In the second practice round, or Pro-Am, I tend to dedicate that to getting into tournament mode. I’m focused on playing one ball and trying to hole every putt. Right now I just want to hit a few shots, get loosened up, and take in the visuals.
Frittelli gets a feel for the greens alongside Byeong-hun An, Niall Kearney and Hamza Sayin
Having a caddie is also something that Frittelli values highly, whether it be to keep him company while he travels, to offer advice when he needs it, or to simply carry the bag. Not having to worry about these things makes life much easier for a player, and in a 72-hole tournament any energy saved can make a real difference.
“Having a caddie definitely makes a difference,” said the South African, as he walked off the 12th tee. “For me it is more an energy factor as having to carry anything gets quite tiring after 18-36-72 holes, so for me that’s a huge help. I’ve got my friend here caddying for me so he likes to keep the mood light, and that helps me get in the right mindset.
Frittelli warms up on the range with close friend Travis Smith watching on
“He’s been over here four or five weeks and having a friend on the bag helps a lot with the travelling. I spent eight and a half months last year travelling with the Challenge Tour and it was a tough, long slog. I realised that I needed to take more time to make things easier.”
With things a little less stressful, and lessons learned as to how best to spend his time, there is no doubt that Frittelli is excited about once again showing the kind of form that saw him excel as part of the American collegiate system, before winning last year on the Challenge Tour.
He returns to Austria’s southernmost state – Carinthia – in positive mood, having somewhat lost his way towards the back end of last year, with the feeling that his best is just around the corner.
“Definitely great vibes being back here, although it is a different course,” said the defending Champion. “The surroundings are beautiful, clean crisp air, and the golf course seems quite similar in terms of the rough and the greens so hopefully I can turn that into a good performance.
“My game feels much better and I’ve made some huge improvements, as I had been struggling a little. I’ve really found my swing the last two weeks, so now I just need to take care of the mental side and I should have a good result.
“That eight and a half months away from home was the problem last year. I didn’t get enough practice time in, travelling week to week, and that’s really the biggest take home I got from last year. You’ve got to take time off and keep logging the practice hours, you can’t just travel all the time.
“I didn’t think of it last year, before it happened, but once it did it was plain to see. I was on the road travelling where you can’t really log eight hour practice days so it was a good learning curve for me and it will help in my career going forwards scheduling wise.”
Good news for Frittelli as he looks to get back on track this week in Austria, and having seen him in practice, a first top ten finish of the season cannot be far away.
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