Tain Lee was first inspired to come to the Challenge Tour by the success of Brinson Paolini, and he arrives at the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge this week once again hoping to follow in the footsteps of his American compatriot, who claimed the inaugural title last year.
Californian Lee is playing in his rookie season on the Challenge Tour, having last year watched Paolini’s rise through Europe’s second tier via regular Facebook updates.
After a conversation at a Monday qualifier for an event on the US PGA Tour’s second tier last year, Lee was convinced that he should give it a shot in Europe. He went on to make the cut at The European Tour Qualifying School last November, which made the Claremont University Graduate a full Challenge Tour member for 2014.
It has been different to anything he has ever experienced, but Lee is thoroughly enjoying his European adventure and hopes he can make it two American winners in as many years this week at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, where Paolini came from five shots back in the final round to claim his maiden professional title 12 months ago.
“I know Brinson pretty well,” said the 24 year old. “He played at Duke University and I played with him at a Monday Qualifier in the USA just before he came over here.
“I think he might have still been an amateur and then he came over here, finished second in Switzerland and then won Le Vaudreuil. I'm friends with him on Facebook so I saw all of that happening.
“I didn’t even know you could get exemptions on the Challenge Tour and at the time I was debating whether or not to do Q-School in Europe. I asked Brinson about it and then I decided to come out here.
“I think my game is coming together, definitely improving. I know that top 15 number is where you want to be but I didn’t know top 70 gets you a good category for next year, so I'm just taking it one day at a time and trying to get myself as high as I can on the Rankings.
“The competition is really good out here and there are a lot of good players you’re playing against. Whatever I can do, I’ll just play my best and see what happens.”
While Lee knows nothing about this week’s course, located north-west of Paris, he enjoys France and is hoping he can get a few tips from his friend Paolini.
“Obviously seeing him do it last year, you feel a little inspired by that and you think you can do it too,” he said. “I think it’s great out here because it’s such a different experience every week.
“In the States, it’s nice for me because I’m comfortable at home, but every week is very similar. Out here you’re going to different countries with different foods and different cultures and meeting different types of people.
“That’s all been fun for me, it’s my first time in all of these countries. This week will be slightly different, because I played in France at Saint Omer so I’ll be going back to a country that I'm somewhat familiar with.
“Saint Omer was a difficult course but it was very pretty out there, the food was good and the people were nice too. Everything about it was really pleasant so I'm looking forward to next week. I have no idea about the course so I might have to ask Brinson for a couple of pointers!”
Lee is joined in the field this week by fellow Americans Connor Arendell and Bryan Newman, who is making his Challenge Tour debut.
Andrew McArthur returns to action for the first time since his victory at the D+D Real Slovakia Challenge two weeks ago and he is joined by Challenge Tour Rankings leader Jordi Garcia Pinto and five other winners from the 2014 season.
Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, makes his first appearance on the Challenge Tour having rose to worldwide fame with impressive performances as an amateur in The 2013 Open Championship and this year’s Open, before also enjoying top 30 finishes at the Irish Open and Alstom Open de France.
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