Three-time European Tour champion Nick Dougherty will make his Challenge Tour debut in this week’s Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic, the second event of the 2012 season.
Having missed the season-opener, the Gujurat Kensville Challenge, six weeks ago to prolong his break from the game, the 29 year old is keen to return to competitive action and begin what he hopes will be a journey back to the top of the game.
Dougherty lost his card last year after making just one cut in 34 appearances, and endured a torrid time at the Qualifying School as he attempted to rediscover the form that yielded victories in the BMW International Open in 2009, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2007 and the Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg Singapore 2005.
However, after a winter-long hiatus from the sport, he is ready to play again, starting at Barranquilla Country Club on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
“I’m really excited to get out there now,” he said. “I’ve never played a regular Challenge Tour event before so it’s a bit of an unknown quantity for me.
“I know the standard is high out there and I don’t expect to go out and win straight away by a few shots. But what I do know is that the atmosphere is supposed to be very friendly. I haven’t seen South America since going out to Argentina as an amateur, so I’m very much looking forward to it.
“I just need to get back to basics now and remember the reasons why I loved the game in the first place, and I’m getting there now. I feel like I’m more me again.
“I think with the fall that I’ve taken in the last two years, it’s an experience that can make your career and make you a lot stronger, and now I’m just looking forward to getting back out on the golf course.”
Australian Daniel Gaunt is another player hoping to return to The European Tour this season after losing his card in 2011.
“It’ll be nice to get out to some good weather and I’ve heard good things about the place, so I’m looking forward to it,” said the 33 year old.
“My main goal is to try and get three wins on the board to qualify for The European Tour. Obviously that’s not going to be an easy task, but if I can’t do that hopefully I can move up the Rankings and secure my card that way.”
Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer, who is top of the Rankings after winning the season curtain-raiser in India, will also be in the field to contest the US$250,000 prize fund, as will European Tour winners Jeppe Huldahl, José-Filipe Lima, Cesar Monasterio, Raymond Russell, Carl Suneson and Daniel Vancsik.
Scottish duo Callum Macauley and Chris Doak, Englishman Paul Dwyer and Denmark’s Andreas Hartø are also back in action and hoping to continue their fine starts to the campaign. They will be joined by 72 players from the Pacific Colombia Tour, who are partners of the event.