Rising star Thomas Pieters would have been forgiven for wanting some time off this week, having played the last four events in a row, but when he realised the Challenge Tour was playing in Belgium, his home country, there was only one option.
The 23 year old from Antwerp has not played competitively on home soil since 2008, and he arrives at Golf de Pierpont in a relaxed mood, relishing the opportunity to catch up with old friends.
“I just wanted to play at home because it’s been so long since I was able to do that,” said Pieters, who came through all three stages of the European Tour Qualifying School in 2013.
“I was at college in the States so I didn’t have the chance to play the Belgian Challenge Tour events. I wanted to take a week off this week, but then I saw this event was on and I added it to the schedule.
“This is five in a row for me now, but it’s more relaxing and I can go home and sleep in my own bed. I have a friend caddieing for me too, so it’ll be a lot of fun.
“I’m happy to be here and excited to play tomorrow.
"I last played this course when I was about 13 or 14 so it was a long time ago. I’ve heard it’s very firm and fast. I had a look around late yesterday afternoon and it looks in really good condition.”
Pieters enjoyed a promising rookie season in 2014, notching three top ten finishes, including tied second at the Open de España, where he lost in a play-off to Miguel Angel Jiménez.
The 2015 campaign also started well, with strong performances in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship either side of Christmas, and his friends have been seeking his advice about competing at the highest level.
“It’s nice to see all the other Belgian players – I played with all of them when we were younger,” Pieters continued. “Hopefully they’ll be on the main Tour soon. They’ve asked me a bit about what it’s like, but to be honest it’s not that different. Everyone’s just grinding away; we’re just playing for bigger prize money.
“I’m enjoying it a lot. This year I’ve been sick and I had a couple of personal issues, so that’s bugged me the last two months. But I’ve been more consistent this year and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season – hopefully the first win is just around the corner.
“This week is probably my best chance to win all year. But I’m just going to relax and enjoy it and play some good golf hopefully.”
Known for his long hitting – he averages more than 300 yards from the tee – is Pieters tempted to go for the green on the 312-yard par four first hole?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I love to hit it a long way but I won’t go for it on the first here as I heard it’s very dangerous. Stats-wise, laying up will be the best option, especially as it’s the first hole. It wouldn’t be good to start with an eight.”