Chris Gane rose to the top of the Challenge Tour Rankings last month with a fine second-place finish in the Madeira Islands Open, and he took some time out from practice for the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC to tell europeantour.com all about the last few weeks…
A great week in Madeira
“Finishing second in Madeira was great. I had a second place in Kazakhstan a couple of years ago as well so those two performances are up there. Doing well that particular week, when the prize money was so much greater than Challenge Tour events, was good timing to say the least. In the bizarre nature of this game, it was only six months ago that I missed the cut by one at the Qualifying School and thought I wouldn’t have a job this year. Now I’m sitting here top of the Rankings. It’s a lovely position to be in, but I guess if ever there was an advert for how crazy this game is, that’s it. One thing can turn it around and you never know when it’s going to be your week. I was fortunate enough that I picked a good week to play well in.
“I never go into a tournament thinking ‘this could be my week’. This game can jump up and bite you where you don’t want it to bite you if you think like that. So much of it is out of your control and I played rubbish the week before. But again, going back to how crazy this game is, you find a little something and you go from the bottom of the leaderboard to the top. I was literally bottom of the leaderboard the week before, and a few days later I’m tied for the lead. It’s a tricky golf course at the best of times at Porto Santo. It’s fiddly without the wind, but put that wind in there and it’s brutal at times. My short game was good that week – I didn’t hit it in the rubbish too much – and there you go, it sounds easy when you say it like that. It’s a funny old game.
Good to get going early
“It’s nice to get a week like that under your belt early in the season. A few years ago I was playing nicely and was about forty-something in the Order of Merit going into the Kazakhstan Open and finished second. But that’s one of the last few events of the season and although it jumped me into the top 15, it’s nicer to get a foot up early, as it can be a grind on the Challenge Tour. You’re working away and you’re finishing 30th, 40th, and sometimes you think ‘why am I doing it?’
“Getting up there early on in the year gives you an extra bit of impetus. It’s a long year. The start is great as there are several events at various places all over the world. I’m not the youngest on Tour by any means and I’ve got a wife and two kids at home, so those trips don’t really add up for me. I didn’t have the best of years last year – that’s golf – and I decided to really take a good break from it over the winter and spend a lot of time with the family and then come out and play when it is on more of a roll. And that’s what I’m doing now, right in the thick of it. It takes me a while to warm up sometimes and get going, but now we’re off and running and there’s a nice stretch of tournaments coming up.
An important spell approaching
“The next three weeks are very important. This week is huge. There are four or five events in the season when you want to peak. I’ve been fortunate this year and in previous years to peak in those events. I’ve not got the best of records round this course but you never know what the week’s going to hold. We’ve got Scotland next week (for the Scottish Hydro Challenge) which has a good prize fund, and Sweden the week after that which is also decent. So if you can find some form you can do a lot of damage towards getting your card sewn up these next few weeks.
“Getting my card through the Rankings is by no means guaranteed. It’s a huge set-up and a massive chance, but I’m not there yet. People have been coming up to me at the golf club back home saying ‘well done, you’re back on the Tour’, but there’s a lot of golf to be played and a lot of money to be won. You could go 15 missed cuts in a row, it can happen, so you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. My missus is quite good at keeping me grounded. I had a great week but I’ve just got to keep doing that and not start thinking about next season already. That’s a dangerous game. I guess people are just pleased for me – and it is lovely when people come up to congratulate you. There weren’t quite so many when I was shooting 77s or 76s like last year. They’ve all come out of the woodwork this year.
“When I’m not playing golf I just like spending time with the family. The kids are great – they’re four and a half and 18 months, and they give so much. To be honest when I’m home I’ll hit a few balls to keep my eye in, but it’s so nice going down the park or for a swim with them. They were in Wales with me for the Welsh Open and it was lovely, so much fun. They don’t care whether Dad shot 75 or 65, they just want to go and play. I’ve found they are a great leveller. If I have a bad week, Dad walks in the door and that’s all they’re interested in. They don’t care how I played. It puts it into perspective. I’ll be the first to admit that before I had kids I sometimes took a bad round home with me. But they don’t want Dad to be miserable and I look at them and suddenly it doesn’t matter so much.
“It’s hard leaving, but weeks like Madeira are lovely because it keeps their security. You have to remember that when you leave the house and think ‘I really don’t want to go’. I’m not afraid to say I’ve shed a tear or two when I’ve been going away. It’s hard, especially the long-haul stuff. But I’m doing it to make their life better, and that puts a different slant on things when you’re out on the course.
“They don’t come to many Challenge Tour events, but they were in Wales, running round the players’ lounge and playing in the crèche. It was lovely. My boy came out and watched me play the last and I managed to get a birdie for him, so he was up on the bank jumping up and down cheering. I couldn’t stop smiling.”