After the first round of the Aegean Airlines Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort the familiar face of Cyril Bouniol was back where it has spent much of the season, near the top of the leaderboard.
An opening round of five under par on the Beckenbaur Course saw him just a stroke out of the overnight lead held by Björn Åkesson and Joel Sjöholm, which heralded somewhat of a return to form for the Frenchman who had missed his previous three cuts.
Now based in America, Bouniol has shown great form in 2014, charming followers of European golf’s second tier along the way.
Affable and friendly, Bouniol is never shy of a word or two, but there is a grit beneath that gentlemanly exterior that is firing the 26 year old towards the top end of the Challenge Tour Rankings, where he currently resides in 23rd place.
Two top ten finishes have been the foundation for that position, thanks to a tie for fifth at the Challenge de Catalunya in April, before a share of fourth the following month at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda.
His recent run of form however is proof that players can’t get by on golfing talent alone, and Bouniol has learned plenty of lessons already in just a few months on the circuit. As a young man chasing your dream it can sometimes be difficult to turn down playing opportunities, but you can’t tee it up every week, and the young Frenchman has figured that out.
“It is very easy to play every week, and it was weird because I had played every Challenge Tour event this season and not missed a cut,” said Bouniol. “Then I went and played the European Tour event in Austria, which is not my Tour, and I got sick and it didn’t go very well. Then I went to St Omer the next week and shot 82-82, which is not a great feeling, especially if you’re already sick.
“I like to play a lot as I’m not the kind of guy who stands on the range and beats balls, I like to play golf, but I think I need to keep it to two or three weeks in a row before I give myself a week off. It seems right to keep playing, especially if it is good because you want to play as much as you can, and when the birdies start coming it is great.
“This is my first year out here on the Challenge Tour, but I’ve played mini tour golf back in the States. It is slightly easier there as there are more weeks off and the events are more spread out over the year, but out here it has been virtually every week since April, so it is much more intense.
“You have to pick the right weeks off, but then sometimes when you feel like you want to take a week off you get an event with a big prize fund that you can’t really pass on, so I’m definitely learning how to manage myself.
“This last stretch I tried to see how many events in row I could do, to see what my body could cope with, to see when my mind gets off track, and for me it was four or five. I know that now, and moving forward this season I will learn my lesson. I have learned a lot already, which has made this a great experience out here on the Challenge Tour.”
It is how a player learns from those kinds of lessons away from the golf course that can often make the difference between success and failure. Players want to earn enough money to make their way on to The European Tour, but it is impossible to play in every tournament, and newcomers have to learn quickly how to maximise their potential for the ultimate financial gain.
Bouniol realises that now, having suffered from a bout of tendinitis in his shoulder, but he believes that once his apprenticeship is up on the Challenge Tour, whether it be this year or the next, that he will be ready to compete at the top of the game as a result.
“This Tour is really getting me ready for the next step, and if I don’t make it this year, then hopefully it will be the next. This is a great tour and we play great courses every week – the Beckenbauer Course here is awesome. It gets you thinking throughout the round, and the front side is very long, so you have to hit good shots.
“The competition out here is great too, you see it every week, with winning totals at 16-17-18 under par, because the guys play really good now.“The line between The European Tour and Challenge Tour is getting much thinner every year, I believe, and it is good for us, as the more good players we have the better it is for everybody. Then when you do move up it makes the transition easier, as you are already shooting those scores, and you know how to go low. The Challenge Tour definitely gets us ready for that.”