Richard Mansell enjoyed a standout season on the European Challenge Tour last year, securing his card for 2020 having played only seven events. With three top ten finishes in 2019, the Englishman looks set to be a regular contender as he enters his first full season on the circuit.
We caught up with him ahead of the season-opening Limpopo Championship.
You managed to secure your Challenge Tour card last year having played just seven events. That must give you a lot of confidence going into this season.
It does. I had to reassess my goals in the middle of last year. I’d started the season playing on the Euro Pro Tour but had the opportunity to play the ISPS Handa World Invitational in August and finished in the top ten, which turned out to be really big for me. That got my name out there a bit and then I played well the next week in Belgium. I got into the final group and had a chance to win that event and from there I was able to focus on the Challenge Tour.
To be honest, I was really thinking about getting into the top 45 and then trying to get a win at the end of the season. In the end, the fact I was able to get my card and better my category was massive. Now I’m able to have a full run at the season so I’m very excited to get going.
Does this feel like a rookie season for you?
To a certain extent, yes, but I’m lucky that I was able to play some events last year and get that experience. I think that’s important to start adjusting to the travel and playing events for several weeks on the bounce. I feel like I managed to adapt to that lifestyle last season and I’m hoping that can be a plus for me going into this year.
What are your goals for the 2020 season?
I always aim high and I don’t see the point of playing if you don’t. I know my game is good enough to play at the top level. I’m hoping this year that I may get some playing time on the European Tour and hopefully I can make the most of those opportunities.
My main focus though is the Challenge Tour and with 20 graduation spots available this year, that’s massive. It’s only five more than last year but that could prove to be a big difference between whether you get your European Tour card at the end of the season or whether you don’t.
When you’re at home during the off-season you’re kicking yourself to get back out on the road and now the season’s finally come, I’m just ready to get out there. We’re lucky to have these events in South Africa in January and looking at the schedule it seems like it’s going to be a great year to be playing on the Challenge Tour.
How has your pre-season been and what have you been working on over the winter?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym over the winter and that has been my main focus. I’ve improved my strength, put on eight or nine pounds, and improved my clubhead speed by 3 or 4 mph. When you’re playing five or six weeks in a row, having that strength can make a difference to your consistency and you don’t need to work as hard to create your distance. Last year was great but I’m aiming for bigger things in 2020, so I also spent some time analysing my stats and seeing where I can improve. I got engaged as well in December!
You’ve spoken previously about the importance of having a caddy. Do you think it makes a difference to have the same person on your bag from week-to-week?
A lot of the guys, particularly when travelling further afield, opt for a local caddie but I decided last year once I started working with my caddie that I was going to stick with one caddie for each event. I’m very into the idea of a team effort because they live every single shot with you and go through all the emotions as well, so I think it is good to go through that together. If you look at previous years, the graduation rate seems much higher with players who have caddies. When you’re playing well, you’d be okay with a local caddie but it’s the weeks you’re struggling that it’s good to have someone on your team with you. Those weeks where you just make the cut could be the difference come the end of the year.
Looking forward to this week, what are your initial impressions of South Africa and the courses here this week?
It’s my first time in South Africa, and the Moroccan event at the end of last season was my first time in Africa, so it is exciting to be out here. To see the wild animals while you’re out on the course is incredible. My fiancé was saying ‘I hope you don’t go on a safari without me’ because we’ve been wanting to do it, but you don’t really need to here because there’s so much wildlife on the golf courses. It’s the first event of the year and everyone’s excited to get going and this is a special place to do that.