The New Guard: Cyril steering towards European glory

3/21/2014 3:11:00 PM
Cyril Bouniol (Gerard Rancurel)  (EuropeanTour)
Cyril Bouniol (Gerard Rancurel) (EuropeanTour)
In the first of our 'New Guard' series, where we take a look at some of the new faces on the European Challenge Tour this season, we profile Cyril Bouniol - the promising Frenchman with the American accent.

He is the promising Frenchman with an American accent and, while Cyril Bouniol has experienced most of his success thus far across the Atlantic, the former US collegiate star is now targeting the top of European golf via the Challenge Tour.

The man from Laloubere in South Western France earned his place on the Challenge Tour through Qualifying School, coming through the first two stages before narrowly missing out on a European Tour card at PGA Catalunya Resort.

The blow of missing out on a place at European golf’s top table was cushioned somewhat by the fact that the 26 year old gained full status on the Challenge Tour for 2014.

While he may end up dividing his attention between Europe’s second tier and the American equivalent, the 26 year old thoroughly enjoyed his first Challenge Tour experience at the Barclays Kenya Open – where he finished tied 17th – and is looking forward to challenging for a top 15 finish.

“It’s a bit of an awkward situation this year because I've got status on two tours but it’s fine,” said Bouniol. “The Challenge Tour is a great tour and it gets you ready for the next step. There are a lot of great players on this tour.

“It is completely different playing over here. It was my first time in Kenya and my first time in Africa so it was quite an experience. You need to be laid back in places like that and I really enjoyed it. 

“The people here on the Challenge Tour are super nice. So far I really like it. I came here with no expectations because it was my first Challenge Tour event and the tour’s Director, Alain de Soultrait, is French so he has been telling me a lot of good things about it and he was right.

“I'm pleased with what I've seen so far. It’s just great to play with such good players, with full fields. It’s going to be really beneficial for me.

“A big part of being successful is finding your comfort zone in professional life and finding your routine. There is going to be a lot of travelling to different countries and different cultures and you just have to find what works for you.”

Bouniol’s very first Challenge Tour experience was an extremely positive one, when he won the Pro-Am on his debut in Kenya before going on to secure a top 20 finish, and the 2010 NCAA Division II Individual Champion is hoping he can get his first professional win on the board this year.

“It would be nice to get a win but my ultimate goal is that top 15 obviously,” he said. “That’s what is in everybody’s mind, we’re not here to stay on the Challenge Tour. We all want to move up and to get there I'm going to have to play really solid golf.

“Winning one or two events would definitely help but I don’t like to make projections too far in advance and I just take it one event at a time and get better every week. If the win happens it happens and if it doesn’t and I get myself in contention a few times, I'm sure it will only be a matter of time.

“There are also guys, like Mike Lorenzo-Vera a few years ago, who led the Rankings without a win, just a lot of good finishes. I would take that as well, it’s just about playing good golf. This is my second year as a professional so I still have a lot to learn and I want to just get comfortable out here.

“In the US I was in my routine and in my rhythm but this year will be a little different. It will be important the way I handle the golf this year and not let distractions bother me and let people tell me where I should play.”

Bouniol, a former amateur star who featured in France’s winning European Team Championship team in 2011, might be a European but having spent the last eight years in the USA, he might be considered an honourary American.

While he was initially eyeing a career in golf in the States, he has been inspired by the success of Americans such as Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein in Europe and he believes the trend of more US natives crossing the ocean in their efforts to reach the highest echelons of golf will only increase.

“I decided to stay and live in the USA,” he said. “I played some mini-tour golf there, winning a couple of events and playing well, but nothing was happening so I decided to go to The European Tour’s Qualifying School. I got to Final Stage and missed my card by a couple of shots.

 “You just need to play tournaments and be ready. It’s a process, it’s about getting experience out here and getting better every week. That’s always been my goal and wherever I need to play to accomplish that I’ll just do it.

 “You can’t get PGA Tour status through Qualifying School in America any more so a lot of the guys are attracted to The European Tour. Plus, I think what Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka have done over here has opened some eyes.

“It’s all about getting used to going outside the US. A generation ago American players would not try coming over here. Maybe ten or so would come over but this year at Qualifying School there were about 80 or so. More and more are going to come here for Q-School.

“A couple of my friends from the mini-tours in the USA saw what I did here at Q-School and they want to try it next year. I think you’ll see more and more Americans coming over here to try so that will benefit everybody because there are a lot of good players and the more good players, the better.”