Rising star Matt Haines heads to this week’s Fred Olsen Challenge de España hoping to add professional success to a 2010 amateur triumph on Spanish soil.
Haines won the Spanish Amateur Championship in March, becoming the third Englishman in four years to win that particular title following Sam Hutsby, John Parry and Danny Willett, and it was that victory which prompted the 20 year old’s decision to turn professional prior to last month’s Mugello Tuscany Open.
It has been a seamless transition into the paid ranks for the Walker Cup player so far and Haines tees it up at Tecina Golf in La Gomera brimming with confidence after following a tied fifth place in the Scottish Hydro Challenge with a share of second place in last week’s SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC.
That performance helped him to fifth place on the Challenge Tour Rankings as he attempts to follow his former Walker Cup teammates Hutsby and Dale Whitnell on to The European Tour.
And having already lifted one trophy in Spain this season, Haines will try to make it a Spanish double by succeeding another successful amateur – Welshman Rhys Davies – as champion of the Fred Olsen Challenge de España.
Leading the home challenge over the 6,937 yards, par 71 course will be Jesus Maria Arruti, who will hope to become only the second Spanish winner of the event.
Arruti arrives on the Canary Islands in the fine form, having finished tied second at last week’s re-scheduled Moroccan Golf Classic.
The veteran of no fewer than 21 visits to The European Tour Qualifying School, finished tied fifth at last year’s Fred Olsen Challenge de España, which was won by Davies – who has since taking The European Tour by storm, with victory at the Trophée Hassan II and five other top ten finishes to his name.
Arruti was joined in the top ten 12 months ago by his compatriots Jorge Campillo (tied eighth), Luis Claverie and Pedro Oriol (both tied third), all of whom return to Tecina Golf this year.
England’s Robert Dinwiddie stretched his lead at the top of the Rankings after finishing tied second alongside Haines at the dual ranking SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC, and another top ten finish at Tecina Golf would all but guarantee him a return to The European Tour at the first time of asking.
The Fred Olsen Challenge de España is this year celebrating its 11th edition, with Carl Suneson the first and still only Spaniard to take the title when he won in 1999.