Alvaro Velasco returns to the scene of his maiden victory at this week’s Fred Olsen Challenge de España, confident that he can reproduce the form which made him the best player of the 2010 Challenge Tour season.
The Spaniard’s victory at Tecina Golf in La Gomera on the Canary Islands two years ago, which made him the first home winner in 11 years, sparked a run of form which included a top 20 at the English Challenge and a top ten at the Rolex Trophy.
He peaked with a win at the lucrative Kazakhstan Open and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the M2M Russian Challenge Cup.
That purple patch eventually led to him winning the Challenge Tour Rankings, finishing ahead of Thornbjørn Olesen and Bernd Wiesberger amongst others; so the 31 year old is understandably excited to return to the place where it all began.
“It’s always nice to go back there and remember the good things that happened there,” said Velasco. “Before that tournament in 2010, I played OK but I didn’t really get any good results. But from there on in, I was very confident. I went on to win in Kazakhstan and then I went on to win the Rankings, so it was a good year for me.”
While he could not push on from there and retain his European Tour card for the 2012 season, finishing 127th in The 2011 Race to Dubai, Velasco feels that he is a better player for the experience and believes that he has what it takes to make it back onto the big stage via the Challenge Tour for the third time in his career.
“Coming from the Challenge Tour last year and playing well, my expectations were quite high and I started the year pretty well,” said the Barcelona man. “But halfway through the season I started playing a lot worse and I struggled a little bit so I didn’t keep my card. But it’s definitely going to be good experience for me going forward. I think I will learn from it.
“Obviously I’ve played and won before on the Challenge Tour, it makes me feel like I can do it again. Every year is a new lesson, so it’s just a matter of learning from them year by year.
“I'm definitely a better player than I was last year and the year, before so I have to take that out on the course and the results will take care of themselves.”
Velasco is certainly looking forward to returning to his native country for what is the only Spanish event on the Challenge Tour schedule and, while it is quite a distance from his Catalonian base, it is a place in which he has always felt at home.
“It’s hard to get to La Gomera, but once you get there they make you feel really welcome and I always feel comfortable there,” he said. “The course is really nice as well.
“While it’s far away, the language, the food, the weather is all very much like home. The people working there are very friendly and there were many Spanish players as well, so it’s a good atmosphere for us as Spanish players.”
Velasco will have a job on his hands if he is to win for a second time in La Gomera, with a strong field present at the beautiful resort.
Philip Archer, Seve Benson and Max Kieffer, all winners on the Challenge Tour this season, will battle it out for the €160,000 prize fund, as will European Tour winners Nick Dougherty, Cesar Monasterio and Daniel Vancsik.