Sam Walker, one of the in-form players on the European Challenge Tour, says he has arrived at the Kazakhstan Open with renewed confidence in his ability after finishing inside the top five in three of his last four events.
The Englishman won the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge in August and finished fifth the following week at the Rolex Trophy. In his last event on Europe’s top developmental tour, the Volopa Irish Challenge Hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, Walker continued his rise up the Road to Oman Rankings with a joint runner-up finish.
Before his win in Finland, Walker sat in 90th place on the 2016 Road to Oman, but his superb run of form saw him move inside the top 15 in his bid to secure a European Tour card in 2017.
“Everything is going the right way,” he said. “I’ve practised at home for the last few weeks and I’ve come back to Kazakhstan with a lot of confidence.
“You have to be confident this week, it’s one of the Challenge Tour’s biggest events. You have to be aiming for a top five finish in an event like this and that’s where I’m looking to be.
“Everything is going to plan at the moment, I want to go out there and do what I have been doing the last few months and that’s enjoying it.”
Walker admitted that before his victory at Vierumäki Resort, that he had considered early retirement.
“The win was massive,” he added. “I was 90th on the Order of Merit. I was thinking about Stage Two of Tour School and even retiring.
“But I played my game and it worked. I then gave myself another chance at the Rolex Trophy, which I maybe should have won. Then Ireland was great again.
“Compared to last year and the year before, I’m giving myself more breathing space. I’m fully focused and a lot fitter now. I’m giving myself chances to win.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last few months. Hopefully it continues in the right direction and I end up in the right place, which is the European Tour.”
Another Sam hoping to make a big impression this week is 2014 Kazakhstan Open winner Sam Hutsby, who knows what an impact a victory of this size can have on a Challenge Tour player’s season.
“Two years ago I came off the course after the second round with a five shot lead,” he said.
“Andrew (Johnston) was very close to me and played some good golf on the last day.
“I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s great to see him doing so well now, that’s where I strive to be and hopefully I’ll get to his level.
“The course is in similar shape to two years ago and it’s nice to come back to events where you’ve done well.
“My game feels pretty good this week. I’m not sure how much that is to do with being back here. I don’t think I’ve been playing too well this year, but I’ve had three weeks off. I had some rest and I’ve been really working on my game. Hopefully the hard work will pay off.”