English teenager Chris Lloyd is targeting victory in the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC and has described it as the perfect opportunity for Challenge Tour players.
It is the only dual ranking tournament of the season, where half the field is taken from The European Tour and half from the Challenge Tour, and the winner receives a one year European Tour exemption.
The €600,000 prize fund gives the Challenge Tour players a chance to stamp their authority on the Rankings, and it also allows them to test their skills at the next step up.
Lloyd has made a strong start to his rookie professional season to lie seventh in the current Challenge Tour Rankings, and he is expecting his performances in the next three tournaments to have a major effect on how he finishes the campaign.
“Winning here would make a massive difference,” said Lloyd. “Suddenly you’re going to Germany next week (for the BMW International Open) and you’ve got your Tour card sorted for next year. This is a huge opportunity for Challenge Tour players, and it’s a massive three weeks coming up.
“This week is huge, next week is the Scottish Hydro Challenge and then it’s The Princess in Sweden, and all three carry good prize funds. So it’s a chance to get some decent prize money on board and cement your place in the Rankings. If I do well in the next three then hopefully it will put me in a good position come the end of the season.
“I’m playing in Italy the week after Sweden (the Doubletree by Hilton Acaya Open) so that’ll be four in a row and I’ll have a week off after that. I did five weeks running up to the Kärnten Golf Open and then had last week off, which I really needed.
“It is working out very nicely this season and I’ve probably fitted in more quickly than I thought. The start of the season was very bitty, but then I had a top ten in France and second place at the Mugello Tuscany Open and I’ve kicked on from there. I’m enjoying it and playing well, so I’ve just got to keep it going.”
The 19 year old from Bristol is feeling refreshed after a week off, adding: “Having a break was lovely and now I feel fresh and raring to go. I took a few days off and then did a bit of practice towards the end of the week. I just caught up with friends and hung out. I’ve been away from home that long before but not competing four weeks straight.
“So it was nice to get back home, get some washing done and raid my parents’ fridge. Their food bill certainly goes up when I’m back.”
The tournament, at Aa St Omer Golf Club, is also a great chance for European Tour players further down The Race to Dubai to grab a victory, as the majority of the Tour’s stars are either competing at the US Open Championship or taking a week’s break.
David Dixon, the 2008 champion, was struggling leading up to the event and had missed the cut in all of his previous five events, but found some form to turn his season around.
“Winning there in 2008 was huge,” said the Englishman. “I was in much the same position then as I am now. Winning that got me into all the bigger events I hadn’t played in before and that was really cool.
“It took the pressure off for the following year with the exemption and I could plan a really good schedule. It doesn’t matter if it’s a €5million event or a €650,000 event, a win is a win at the end of the day. I don’t care if it’s a small win or a big win. I will take any win at the moment. It does wonders for the confidence – and the wallet.
“I’ve been to St Omer loads of times and you’ve got to stay calm. The scores are never low, so you have to be patient and not lose the head.
“The course is getting better every time. You have to learn your way round. There are massive elevation changes and it’s a great opportunity for those who don’t have the best rankings. It’s a good confidence-building week. The stars of The European Tour tend to take a week off or head to the US Open and I think it’s great. I took forward to it.”