Having played on professional tours all over the world, 34-year-old Hugo Leon first came to the European Challenge Tour last season. Despite not finishing in the top 15 in the Rankings, he was one of 12 Challenge Tour players to earn a European Tour card at Qualifying School.
With the European Tour on a break this week, we caught up the Chilean, who is teeing it up at the Made in Denmark Challenge – Presented by FREJA from August 7-10.
First off, how has life been on the European Tour?
It’s been phenomenal. Beautiful tournaments, great sites, great courses. I got to play Valderrama, which is a place I had always dreamt about playing. The British Masters at Hillside blew my mind with how cool it was.
Just like the Challenge Tour, you get to go to so many different places, you get to hang out with so many different people. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people who I think I’ll be friends for life with, just in the first half of the season. To see all these places and make a living out of it – that is something you can’t buy.
It’s been a beautiful experience so far and I’m really enjoying it.
You made more starts on the Challenge Tour last year than any other player. It’s a break week for the European Tour but you’re here teeing it up. You must really be itching to play?
I just love playing. It’s a bonus that the purses are higher on the European Tour, but I love playing, it’s still my favourite thing in the world to do, and I was just dying to play. I spent some really nice time in America visiting some friends in New York, we went up to Vermont and had a really nice time too, but nothing beats competing. I just miss it so much when I don’t have it, so that’s why I came up to Denmark. It also gives me the chance, while I’m here, to see a lot of friends that I hung out with last year, and do some catching up, which is great.
What is it about competing that you love so much, you seem like you’re almost addicted to it?
I am addicted to it, there’s no “almost” about it (laughs). The truth is, I have never been able to find a way to train to recreate what the tournament does to me—the adrenaline, the excitement. It’s a different thing than practice. Now, practice is great, I love playing for fun, but adding that extra spice of the scorecard makes it so good.
It’s a challenge, it’s something that I love to do. It feels so much more intense when it’s competition. In tournaments it’s just that pure essence of it—it’s just me, trying to do the best I can, and I haven’t found a way to recreate it, I don’t think I ever will.
You would think over time the adrenaline might simmer down, but it doesn’t at all. I still get as excited as the first time I turned pro, and as I was when I was a junior. All my life it’s felt very similar.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
To get my game just a little bit sharper from here to the end of the season and wrap up my card as soon as I can, that would be goal number one. And then the next goal—I would love to be in contention and hopefully have a chance to win.
It’s on me to figure out how to get that done, but I feel like I’ve continued to get better and better and I feel ready.
What’s your favourite memory from last year on the Challenge Tour?
I had a key tournament around this time last year, in Pleneuf. My Dad came over from Chile and we rented a house with Nico Geyger, who I’m staying with this week, and also my caddie Rodrgio—both are like brothers to me. Just the time we all spent together that week, how beautiful the golf course was, and the fact that I played well and how that catapulted me to start playing really well. That was a very strong step in my career in Europe and so that is probably the fondest memory… that I can tell you about at least (laughs).