In the second part of our ‘Challenge Tour Players Around the World’ series, Chile’s Mark Tullo explains why he is so confident for this season and why he believes the Challenge Tour is the perfect avenue for Chilean golfers to plot their route to the top.
After missing out on retaining his European Tour card by just four places last year, Chile’s Mark Tullo is desperate to return to the highest tier in European golf, and believes that a full season on the Challenge Tour this year is the best route back to the top.
Tullo suffered heartbreak when he finished in 119th place in The 2011 Race to Dubai, thanks largely to a third place finish at the Scottish Open, as only the top 118 players earned a European Tour card for this season.
The 34 year old did not let that crushing disappointment get the better of him, however, and he is keen to make amends by earning a return to the top table via the Challenge Tour.
“I love The European Tour and I want to be back up there, no doubt, but my main focus at the moment is the Challenge Tour,” said Tullo, who made a promising start to 2012 with a tied 14th place finish at the Barclays Kenya Open earlier this month.
“I missed a card literally by a shot last year and if you miss by 100 shots it’s the same thing so I ‘danced with the ugly woman’ last year, which is a saying in Spanish but maybe doesn’t translate into English very well.
“It means I saw the bad side of things, but if I played better I wouldn’t be in this position. My game is better now, I changed some things and in a way, it’s better than ever. My iron play and driving is amazing, I'm very accurate and solid, so if I can improve my putting I will be in really good shape. Maybe I can do well in Madeira (Madeira Islands Open – Portugal) and St Omer (Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC) but right now I’m just focussed on the Challenge Tour and getting my card that way.”
After briefly challenging for the title in Kenya earlier this month, Tullo is certainly not short of confidence going into the dual-ranking Madeira Open in two weeks’ time, and he believes he is more than capable of securing a top ten finish in the Challenge Tour Rankings this year.
“I’m looking at the top ten this year on the Challenge Tour,” he said. “I should be up there every tournament this year. Obviously lots of people say that but it doesn’t always happen that way, but this is my fourth year in Europe and every year I have developed. I think last year I had a good year but was a little unfortunate, so this year I’m more confident and believe in my game.
“This sport is so unpredictable. You could be at rock bottom but you can be on cloud nine. I think the key is to keep your mind in the present, don’t think too much about next week or what could be. I’ve learned that lesson – just take it shot by shot.”
Alongside Felipe Aguilar, Tullo is one of few Chileans plying his trade at the higher echelons of golf, but the two-time Challenge Tour winner believes there are a lot of young players from his country who are talented enough to climb the ranks but are just waiting for their big break.
“There are many guys in Chile from 22 to 25 years old who are very good golfers but have just not made that breakthrough in Europe or the USA,” he said.
“None of them have taken that step but they are great golfers. With the Qualifying School, I think there’s just a little bit of luck involved. You can miss one putt and you’re out so hopefully one day they’ll make it and I think if they had a whole year to prove themselves, that would make the difference - not just one or two weeks.
“It’s those 25 or 26 tournaments during the year which give you an idea of who are the best golfers, so that’s one of the reasons the Challenge Tour works so well.“These guys are young and the sooner they get on Tour the better and hopefully a few more can come over and follow my path in Europe.”