Czech Challenge set to thrill fans this week

In its fifth year, the D+D Real Czech Challenge is attracting top talent

Form horse Stow confident in Czech Republic

European Tour Release

May 25, 2016: Ben Stow is hoping to use his impressive early season form as a catalyst for a career-changing campaign as he arrives at this week’s D+D REAL Czech Challenge confident of becoming the third English winner on the Challenge Tour this year.

The 24 year old began the season at the very bottom of the categories list and would have spent the year waiting for rare appearances on the Challenge Tour had he not capitalised masterfully on an invite in the second event of 2016.

Stow clinched a top five finish at the Red Sea Egyptian Challenge Presented by Hassan Allam Properties in April to earn a late entry for the following week’s Challenge de Madrid before a sublime final round 66 in Spain earned him a runner-up finish and another week on tour.

Having moved to within the top 15 of the Road to Oman, the Salisbury player is now targeting a European Tour card for the 2017 season.

“I was the last guy on tour to have a category and so I wouldn’t have had any events yet this season because of that,” said Stow, who represented the Kentucky Wildcats in American collegiate golf.

“I got an invite to Egypt, got through to Madrid through the top ten rule, and then did the same to get to Turkey so it’s been lucky, but I’ve played well so I suppose some would say I deserve it. I just have to keep playing and good golf kills all problems.

“I’m doing a lot of things well, so I just have to keep working away and doing the things I’ve been doing. The re-rank comes in three weeks so it’s nice that, because I’ve had such a good start, I can keep playing the rest of the year and plan my weeks to play or not play.

“When I played Challenge Tour last year I felt like I was comfortable but my wedge play and chipping was poor so in the off-season I didn’t play properly for two months and just went to town on improving that part of my game. That’s made a big difference this year.”

Two of the five Challenge Tour tournaments thus far this season have been won by young English prospects – Jordan L Smith at the Egyptian Challenge and Gary King at the Montecchia Open by Lyoness ­– so there is no shortage of inspiration for Stow as he chases a maiden title.

With Danny Willett’s Masters victory in April, two prestigious English events on the European Tour schedule and the return of the Challenge Tour to England this year for the Bridgestone Challenge, the game in Stow’s homeland could not be in ruder health and he is hoping now to ride that wave.

“Jordan was actually my foursomes partner when I played county golf,” he said. “I know him really well and I played England golf with Gary King for quite a few years so it’s really nice to see the lads doing well.

“We’re all pretty tight out on tour and we hang out and get dinner together. It definitely fills you with confidence because I know I can play with them and they’re winning.

“There are quite a lot of us in a same age group that push each other along so I think that definitely helps, knowing you’ve a load of other mates who can play. We live in similar parts of England and practice together so that helps bring the standard up and up.”

A big-hitter who has not yet missed a cut this season, Stow could be a good bet for a wager this week and he is certainly feeling confident.

“I hit it quite long so this place is awesome for me,” he said. “I think I’ve got a few three woods off the tees, but apart from that I’m pretty much hitting driver everywhere which means I can take advantage of my distance.

“The fairways are pretty generous but the guy who wins this week – his mid to short-iron play and wedges will be good, because the up and downs are quite difficult. So if you get it close with your second shots, you’ll be comfortable.

“I had a nice week off last week, just chilled and did a bit of practice to get back into it, had a chat with my coach, so I’m in good shape. I feel good, I just need to go out there and do what I do, and if it doesn’t happen this week it’ll hopefully happen another week.”

Stow is joined at Golf and Spa Kunetická Hora by his compatriot Smith as well as three more of the winners on tour this season – Swede Sebastian Soderberg, Duncan Stewart of Scotland and Frenchman Clément Sordet.

Dane Andreas Hartø and France’s Fran?ois Calmels, the first two respective winners of this tournament in 2012 and 2013, are also present as are former Challenge Tour Number Ones Alvaro Velasco, Espen Kofstad and Andrea Pavan.

The D+D REAL Czech Challenge this year celebrates its fifth anniversary and a host of homegrown Czech players will be cutting their teeth alongside Europe and the world’s most talented up and coming stars, including 20 year old Vitek Novak, who made the cut at last year’s D+D REAL Czech Masters on the European Tour.

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