For many players teeing it up at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage this week, their livelihoods are at stake. It is the Last Chance Saloon for securing playing privileges on the European Tour or European Challenge Tour for the 2020 season, otherwise a year of struggle could lie ahead.
That is not the case for Benjamin Poke, however. The Dane finished 29th on the Road to Mallorca in his debut campaign on the Challenge Tour and in doing so retained his card for next year.
He earned his status to compete on the Road to Mallorca courtesy of finishing third on the Nordic Golf League Order of Merit – where he won once in 2018 – and after carding a five under par round of 67 on the opening day of the gruelling Qualifying School Final Stage, Poke views this week as a bonus after a successful season.
“It’s my first time at Final Stage and I’ve heard from some of the other guys, especially some of the Danes, how long a week it is,” he said. “As always, tournaments are not won on day one but I’m certainly very happy to get off to a good start. Hopefully I can continue in the same mindset.
“Coming from the Nordic Golf League last year and playing in Category 13 on the Challenge Tour, I felt like I had a good season by making it to the Grand Final and from hereon in, everything I do this week is just a bonus.
“It’s quite a nice place to be, I think, and obviously you’re still trying to do as well as you can and the nerves are still going to be there because it means something to you. My goal is to take every day at a time and every shot at a time – it’s a cliché but that’s the thing.”
The man who is known for wearing all-red golf shoes, in a nod to his home country, finished third in his home event, Made in Denmark Challenge presented by FREJA, and attained four additional top tens in his maiden Challenge Tour season as he joined fellow Danes Rasmus Højgaard and Martin Simonsen in the Challenge Tour Grand Final.
Speaking after his 67 on day one at Lumine Golf Club, Poke explained his strategic approach to tackling the Hills Course – he will play both the Hills and Lakes Course twice apiece before the four-round cut – with ball placement crucial to his low start.
“The Hills Course puts more emphasis on ball striking, especially off the tee,” he said. “With how the wind is, you’re not forced to hit drivers and you can get away with hitting two-irons and three-woods off the tee if you place the ball in the right spot all the time.
“The course is not that long, other than the finishing stretch, so you’re going to give yourself wedges and short irons in. Therefore, we were thinking if we can get the ball on the fairways and give ourselves a wedge or short iron into the green, then we’ll see if we can make a few putts.”