After the success of Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein was followed by compatriot Brinson Paolini in 2013, there is a new American face flying the flag this week in just his third Challenge Tour start at the Fred Olsen Challenge de España.
As one of a record 83 men to cross the pond and enter The European Tour Qualifying School First Stage, California’s Gregor Main was part of the seven-strong group of Americans who made it all the way to PGA Catalunya Resort for the Final Stage, before narrowly missing out on the four round cut in Girona.
That gave him status on the Challenge Tour for this season, and after he broke his duck a fortnight ago at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda with a share of 17th place, the American went even better last week at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge to finish in a tie for 12th.
Speaking to the UCLA graduate, it is clear that there a few nerves there, and he admitted that it has taken some time to feel a little more settled over here in Europe, but he seems determined to make a go of it this side of the Atlantic.
He knows the likes of Koepka and Paolini personally, having played against the pair of them in his college days, while he also went to high school with Uihlein in Florida. There is clearly quite a connection between the four of them, and that could very well make Main a man to watch as the season unfolds.
“I’m good friends with Peter and Brooks, who came over last year, and I just figured I would come over here and try it,” said the 24 year old. “I played well in the Q-School, and got all the way to the Final so this is what I’m going to be doing this year.
“It has been good so far, I made the cut in my first event in Austria. I got in at the last minute, so I was really jetlagged, but I played well and had a good result.
“It has been good so far on the Challenge Tour. I’ve been playing on a mini-tour back in Southern California, and I have had a couple of top five finishes over there. So I came here feeling pretty good about my game, as I’ve been playing well.
“It is just golf over here, the travelling is tough, but once you’re on the golf course the guys are nice and I’ve gotten to know a few of them – I’m staying with the Norwegian guys this week – so I’m already making some friends.”
This is by no means Main’s first sojourn to this part of the world. He travelled in his amateur days, and for the three stages of the Qualifying School last year, and has enjoyed seeing new cultures, trying new food, and embracing what the Challenge Tour experience has to offer.
Aside from his successful compatriots, the California native also knows a couple of European faces, as he was teammates at college with Sweden’s Pontus Widegren and Portugal’s Pedro Figueiredo, themselves both in the midst of a first full season on European golf’s second tier.
“I played the British Amateur in 2009 when it was at Formby, but I didn’t make the cut there,” said Main. “I’ve also played in Japan in a Junior Golf World Cup, so I’ve travelled a bit and it has not been too bad. I was in Italy for the first stage of the Qualifying School last year, and then Spain for the second.
“I’m enjoying experiencing the new cultures, food and languages, but it is different. The food is different, the hotel rooms are different, but it is fun because I’m doing what I love.
“I played on my college golf team at UCLA with Pontus and Pedro for two years. I always knew they would be playing over here, but as well as Koepka and Uihlein, I’m also good friends with Brinson Paolini, who did so well out here last year. So I figured I might as well give it a try.
“You can’t get straight to the PGA Tour anymore through their qualifying, you have to go through the Web.com Tour, but wherever you go you have to play well, there are good players everywhere.
“I had not spoken to the guys about specifics over here, but seeing how they played and what they achieved, I thought I’d come and do it.”
He is certainly following in some esteemed footsteps, having seen the success his friends have had on European soil, but he seems to be revelling in it so far and confident that once he is fully acclimatised to life on the road, he will be in a position to have some success of his own.
“I think I’m going to play over here for most of the season,” he said. “I’m still not sure how many events I will get into, but I will play all the events I can, and then if I play well I will move up.
“It feels good to make the cuts, and I have felt a little uncomfortable these first couple of weeks, but I’ve managed to play pretty well. Once I get going and get more comfortable, hopefully I can have a chance to win some of these.”