Kieffer following Kaymer's path

05/11/2012 13:07:27
Max Kieffer (Phil Inglis) ()
Max Kieffer (Phil Inglis) ()
Max Kieffer comes from the same city as Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer, but that is certainly not where the similarities end.

Stocky of build, focussed and determined of mind, Kieffer counts his fellow Dusseldorf native as a perfect role model and this year he will be looking to follow in the footsteps of his idol as he plays his first season on The European Tour.

At just 22 years of age, the golf world is Kieffer’s oyster and he has all the credentials of a star in the making.

Impressive amateur career? European Young Masters Champion 2006, Germany International Amateur Champion 2009 as well as Eisenhower Trophy, St Andrews Trophy, Jacques Léglise Trophy and Junior Ryder Cup appearances; Check.

Challenge Tour success? In the first tournament of his second season and at 21 years old, he travelled halfway across the globe to the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in India before beating local favourite Rahil Gangjee in a tense play-off in front of big home crowds; Check.

There are still many, much more prestigious accomplishments to achieve if Kieffer is to emulate his two heroes, Kaymer and Bernhard Langer, but having played with and received advice from both, he is taking the right steps on that path.

“I played with Bernhard Langer a couple of times because I am friends with his son,” said Kieffer. “Bernhard played the Dutch Open in the morning once and in the afternoon he came to another course with us and played nine holes there, so that was amazing.

“That was great because I saw that it’s not really about his talent - you don’t see that as much - you just see a hard-working player with a great mind-set and it is the same with Martin.

“Then I played a practice round with Bernhard at the BMW International Open in 2010 as an amateur and he was really helpful. He gave me loads of advice. The main one was just to stay focussed and don’t look at everything around you. Just stick to what you are doing and do your best with it and work hard on it.

“I also played with Martin a few times, although I don’t know him really well. I think he is quite similar to Bernhard. They’re both quiet guys but when you get to know them they are a lot of fun – they are very funny guys. You don’t see that on TV but when with a big group of friends they are very funny.”

Kieffer admitted that watching Kaymer’s heroics at The Ryder Cup, where his putt on the last ensured Europe would retain the trophy, gave him a huge boost during a period when he was struggling.

“The Ryder Cup was amazing,” he said. “I came home after a missed cut so I saw almost all of it and for Martin to finish it off was the icing on the cake.

“It was really motivating. The next day you just want to get out and practise. It was great. There are so many good players out there and it will be tough to play Ryder Cup, but it’s obviously everyone’s dream. It would be incredible to do that.”

“I'm still learning a lot of lessons,” he continued. “When you are a young player you are not patient and you want everything now, but you need to look at the bigger picture. There is so much to learn.”

This year has certainly been a huge learning curve for the German, who started the year with a nerveless win in India before sliding down the Rankings, and then finishing with a bang at the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, where he clinched his card with a tied seventh finish.

“India was one of the best moments of my career,” he said. “When I won the European Young Masters at 16 I didn’t really expect it, I was just happy to be playing, but the win in India was great.

“The Indians were really friendly supporters and gave me great support even though I was playing against an Indian in the play-off, so it was great fun.

“I wasn’t happy with how I performed in the summer this year, but then when I least expected it and when I was down and not motivated, suddenly it all start clicking again, so it was nice to get my game back after a lot of disappointment.

“It has always been my dream to get on The European Tour so it’s great to finally do that. I played a European Tour tournament last year with a lot of good players and it’s really nice to play with players like that because you learn so much.

“The main goal is to compete against the best guys in the world and see how good you can be.”

In many ways, the journey only begins here for Kieffer. With a mental fortitude typical of the great German golfers and a wealth of experience that belies his years, do not bet against this man ticking the boxes which Messrs Kaymer and Langer have done in their distinguished careers.