Matt had an excellent start to his 2014 season, finishing 17th at the Barclays Kenya Open. He’ll be making several blog posts about his time on tour so keep checking back for his latest entry.
Just the beginning
My season began earlier this month with the Kenya Open. I finished 17th which I was happy with overall. It was my first event of the year and so you never know quite what to expect. I practised well over the winter but when you haven’t played much golf and find yourself out on the course with a card in your hand you don’t how it will go, so 17th was a pretty good start. Saying that, I was disappointed coming off the last as I played well tee to green just didn’t putt as well as I had the first two days. That was a little bit frustrating as I feel I could have had a top 10 finish out there, but I did pick up a tummy bug while I was in Kenya so I did well to get in the position I did on Thursday and Friday.
I was watching the Sport Relief programme with Davina McCall, which focussed on some of the children in Nairobi in Kenya. I’ve been there four times and on the drive from my hotel to the course, it is when you see how the people are living, including children and it is hard to comprehend.
It definitely makes you appreciate what you and your family have at home. I have a great contact in Kenya who sponsors my hotel for the week, so I am fortunate to stay in the superb Sankara hotel. It is located next to the Westlands shopping centre where all the shootings happened a few months ago. At the time I called to see if my friend was ok and I called again ahead of the tournament to check that everything was OK. My wife was naturally not too keen on me going but I was told everything was fine, while there was a lot of extra security at the golf course.
My goal for the season is to finish in the top 15 come the end of the season and secure a card to play on the European Tour next season. To achieve that I know I am going to have to have a number of top five finishes throughout the season but feel that my preparations throughout the winter will help with that, particularly in the second half of the season.
I had three top 10 finishes last season, including my final tournament of the year when I finished fourth. My previous two seasons on the Challenge Tour I finished 50th and 95th but I think I can build on last year.
In readiness for the season I have been working hard with my coach, Stuart Dowsett at Sundridge Park. We’ve been working together for seven to eight years on the technical aspects of my swing. We have just spent three days in Portugal that was really beneficial. I have also been working on my fitness more with Rob Goldup. I had always done some fitness but working with Rob has taken it to another level. It has helped me technically as well as physically and got me excited about this year. I hope the benefits will especially be seen in the second half of the season. I have also had some KORE treatment from Darren Hewlett this winter, which is helping to keep me moving well. I also have continued my work with Karl Steptoe on the psychology part of the game, which is so important.
Aside from my team, us guys on Tour, particularly those of us not at the top level, would not be able to do it without a sponsor. I was fortunate to stay in a very nice hotel in Kenya, as usually it’s a sharing a room in an Ibis to keep costs down. It costs about £1,000 a tournament and so a top 10 or even better a top five finish is needed to make any money. I’m fortunate that I’ve got a great sponsor in Ian Pether of C+K Specialist Cleaning Group, who has been a big supporter of the PGA in the South for a number of years.
Without Ian’s support I really don’t think I’d be where I am now playing on Challenge Tour. I might not even be in the game. So having Ian’s support is great and I like to give something back when I can and hopefully repay the faith he’s shown in me. Last year I qualified for the French Open and Ian came out and was with me every step of the way. I had a practice round before the event with Luke Donald and it was great for Ian, who loves the game, to be there walking down the fairways with one of the game’s best players in the world. Ian will be with me again this year when I play at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and also the Scottish Open later in the year.
Next up for me, hopefully, is the NH Collection at Sotogrande in the first week of April. This is a co-sanctioned event with the European Tour so getting in is far from guaranteed as a number of the European Tour guys are in. I’m currently a reserve and so it’s a case of wait and see. If I don’t get in then it’ll be Challenge de Catalunya at the end of April.
This article was originally posted on www.pga.info