The week after Victor Dubuisson sealed an emotional second professional victory at the Turkish Airlines Open, another enigmatic Frenchman secured his place on The European Tour at the European Challenge Tour’s season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final: Thomas Linard.
The 27 year old finished in the top 15 in Muscat to take the ninth spot in the Road to Oman Rankings after a consistent second season on the Challenge Tour that saw him finish in the top ten four times.
Two of those were runner-up finishes on home soil, at the Najeti Open Presented by Neuflize OBC and Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge, while his place in the top 15 was secured by eight consecutive finishes inside the top 25 in the final stretch of the season.
Having come through the Alps Tour, finishing seventh in 2013, Linard took a maiden Challenge Tour victory in the 2014 D+D Real Czech Challenge and after sealing his European Tour card in Oman, he is looking forward to stepping up to the big time.
“I am very happy to be a European Tour player,” he said. “I played very well for the second part of the season because I missed the first five cuts which was very bad for my head. But I finished in the top 15 and it’s all now very good.
“I didn’t think I was safe before Grand Final. For me coming to Oman I had to play well, because all the players are playing very good and with the European Tour cards for being in the top 15, the stakes are very high, so for me nothing was sure before then. I played very well though and now I am very happy.”
Linard is one of a new wave of French golfing talent that has emerged on the European golfing stage in the past few years, with compatriot Sebastien Gros, another Challenge Tour graduate this year, the first to congratulate him as he walked off the 18th green in Muscat.
The pair were then joined in European Tour ranks by Clement Berardo, who came through Qualifying School Final Stage the following week, making a total of 14 Frenchmen who will compete in the 2016 Race to Dubai.
Linard will be inspired in particular by the performance of Benjamin Hebert, a former winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings and triumphant at last year’s Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club.
Since graduating from the Challenge Tour for a second time, Hebert has established himself on The European Tour, his most notable finish being a tie for fourth place at the Alfred Dunhill Links last season, showing it is possible for Challenge Tour alumni, and Frenchmen, to compete at the very highest level.
Also looming large is the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris, where the home fans will be hoping to see other names added to their three former representatives of Dubuisson, Thomas Levet and Jean van de Velde.
For Bourges-born Linard, that Ryder Cup may provide the ultimate incentive since it is in the city he now calls home – and where he spends his spare time helping out at his local golf club repair shop.
“I work in a golf shop making golf clubs,” he said. “Next year I probably won’t get the time to keep doing it but I like the work, the club-making. I make clubs for all the people of the club. The shop is based in Paris and I really enjoy the work but being a professional golfer is even better.“To switch off from golf I like to go fishing and just get away from the course. I also like cars, beautiful cars, and I like tennis as well. I go to the theatre a lot and I like films.”