Steven O’Hara is hoping a return to the country where he claimed his best finish on The European Tour last year will give him a timely boost as he chases a successful week at the inaugural D+D Real Czech Challenge Open.
The Scotsman has divided his time between The European Tour and Challenge Tour this season after taking the fifth card on offer at last year’s Qualifying School Final Stage.
But the 32 year old has not made a big enough impact on either tour to guarantee a stay on the top
tier for next year, and now needs some improved performances in the next two weeks if he is to force his way into the top 45 of the Challenge Tour Rankings, and so earn a place in the lucrative season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
O’Hara finished tied fifth at the Czech Open last year, after a third round 65 gave him a share of the lead going into the final day alongside eventual winner Oliver Fisher, and he will be hoping those good memories will spur him on this week at Kunetická Hora GC, in Drítec.
“I had a good tournament in the Czech Republic last year up until the last four or five holes and I kind of let it slip a bit,” said O’Hara. “But I have good memories of that tournament. The weather was perfect and the greens were nice and I putted solidly for the main part, which was good.
“I don’t know what the course is like for this week, but I hope it suits me and the greens are not too severe.
“I made some unforced errors last week in Lyon, just a lack of concentration, and without those errors my game is good so hopefully I can have a good week.”
The Motherwell man, who gained a European Tour card via the Challenge Tour in 2008 thanks to a ninth place finish in the Rankings, is not too downbeat about his season so far despite not producing his best form.
If he cannot force his way into the reckoning for a Challenge Tour top 20 finish, O’Hara is still keen to have some positive form entering the Qualifying School, having performed so well at PGA Catalunya Resort last time out.
“I have actually hit the ball well all year, but my short game has really let me down,” he said.
“I’ve been working hard on it and I haven’t had the improvements yet that I would’ve liked to have seen, but I feel like it’s getting better and you just have to be patient because you just never know what’s around the corner.
“I was hoping for a good tournament last week in France and I played okay, but I shot two over in the third round and it should have been a couple under at worse. I had a good final round though, and hopefully that will continue into this week.
“If you get into the Grand Final and win it you have a great chance of a card for The European Tour, but if not I’ll go back to the Qualifying School. I’ve been there before and know what it takes to get through, so it’s not the end of the world.”
With the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final just two weeks away, the stakes are high for many of the players in the Czech Republic this week and a strong field gathers at Kunetická Hora GC, which was designed by 14-time European Tour winner Graham Marsh.
The last time the Challenge Tour visited the Czech Republic was in 2008, when Englishman Seve Benson – this year’s Barclays Kenya Open champion – won the Ypsilon Golf Challenge presented by Alex Cejka.
Benson is one player in need of a strong finish to the season if he is to earn a return to The European Tour next year, having slipped to 30th in the Rankings.
There will be 11 Challenge Tour winner from the 2012 season in attendance, including the winner of last week’s ALLIANZ Open de Lyon, Chris Doak.