It was described in an English newspaper as “the first tournament of the rest of his life” as Nick Dougherty made an encouraging first appearance of 2012 at the Challenge Tour’s Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic last week.
There is a long road ahead for the Englishman, but in Colombia he showed encouraging signs, finishing tied fourth at Country Club de Barranquilla with rounds of 71, 70, 68 and 73 in extremely windy conditions.
Perhaps more importantly, Dougherty was relaxed and confident during the week, enjoying his Challenge Tour debut enough to decide to play in the next event on the schedule, the Barclays Kenya Open in two weeks’ time.
“It’s been a great experience,” said the 29 year old. “The standard on the Challenge Tour is superb. It was not easy this week but there were some really good scores.
“All of these guys playing this kind of golf could easily play on The European Tour. The standard is tough and the competition is high so it’s really tested me and I really enjoyed it.
“It reminds me of when I was younger where you just warm up beforehand, whereas on The European Tour there’s a perfect pyramid of balls to hit off perfect turf to loads of greens, so it almost becomes a practice session, whereas here it’s a proper warm up.
“It’s made me more laid back and it’s what I've got to get back to doing because I think it’s what the best players in the world do no matter what the conditions.”
After a winter-long break from the game following the Qualifying School Final Stage in December, the three-time European Tour winner decided to play on the Challenge Tour for the first time in his career on the advice of his new manager Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler, in order to rebuild his game and his confidence.
“I could have come and shot in the 100s because I hadn’t played in so long,” he said. “But it’s baby steps. I’ve played poorly for a couple of years and I’m working hard at it and I feel like I’m making some really good progress in my mind now so it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”