Simon Wakefield cannot wait to return to The European Tour next season after bouncing back in style via the Challenge Tour Rankings.
The Englishman narrowly missed out on retaining his card last year, finishing 122nd – four places from safety – with earnings of €226,795, thanks largely to finishing runner-up in the Austrian Open, where he lost a play-off to compatriot Kennie Ferrie.
He has returned to the top tier at the first time of asking, however, and has the Challenge Tour Number One spot in his sights heading into the last event of the season, the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
“Every player would love to win the Rankings,” said Wakefield, who is currently fifth in the money list, €10,466 behind leader Kristoffer Broberg. “But it’s more of a case of ‘job done’ for me. I can play without any pressure, knowing that I’ve secured my card for next season.
“It’s been great this year. I lost my card in 2009 when I was ill, and won it back at the Qualifying School (he won the Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort), but I never felt like I got going in 2010. I lost the play-off in Austria to Kennie Ferrie, and then I didn’t get an invite to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship the following week, and that crippled me. Nine guys went past me in The Race to Dubai that week.
“I went to the Qualifying School last December and didn’t feel like I deserved to be there and my mind wasn’t on it. I was in the wrong frame of mind.
“I knew that with category 12 (for this season) I’d have ten to 12 starts on the main Tour and hopefully I could make the most of it. I played events early on and did well, but then I just thought why not play on the Challenge Tour for the rest of the year.
“The finances were looking very healthy from the previous year, so I didn’t have to worry about that. And I just went and played golf.”
A change of sponsor has also worked out well for the 38 year old, who was second in last week’s Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Challenge hosted by Royal Golf Club – one of five top tens of the campaign.
“I moved to Ping in December after 11 years with Taylor Made and it’s been a tremendous move,” he said. “They’ve looked after me ever so well and I felt great with the equipment straight away. The proof’s in the pudding as I’ve had some great results this year.
“Before last week I’d been hitting some great shots, and so many good putts and good chips weren’t going in – they were lipping out or hitting the flag or whatever. Last week was good to post some really good scores and stay in contention right the way through.
“I can’t wait to get back next year. I’m proud of the way I’ve come back. I could have wallowed around feeling very bitter about the year before, but I haven’t; I’ve got on with playing good golf and I’ve made it back.”