TODD Clements feels under no pressure and hopes this week’s Northern Ireland Open will be the beginning of a period of progression for the Challenge Tour player from Essex.
The 24-year-old tees it up at Galgorm Castle Golf Club this week having finished in third place at the venue in last year’s ISPS Handa World Invitational.
That result was the catalyst for a strong end to the campaign for the Braintree ace, who was crowned English Amateur Champion at The Berkshire three years ago.
Clements has been keeping sharp by playing on mini-tours in the United Kingdom over the last few months.
But now he is relishing a return to European Challenge Tour action as the season effectively restarts after a brief two-week sojourn in Austria, in July.
“I’ve been playing all the mini-tour stuff really, as much as possible,” Todd said. “It’s been quite nice really because you’re playing against all the Tour players.
“I’ve been doing a lot fitness too. It’s been a good time to do a lot of fitness because you can prioritise it. And it’s not going to have any detriment to your game.
“I feel like I can be reasonably competitive. I’ve obviously not got as many rounds under my belt as I’d like, in my opinion.
“I’m going to take it as it comes and I’m going in with no expectations really,” said Clements, who is coached by former teenage prodigy Zane Scotland.
“How can you be tough on yourself when the last time you really competed was in Austria in July?
“It’s six or seven weeks since I last played in a four-round tournament.
“So I’m just looking forward to getting back out. I’ll try to enjoy it and relish the opportunity again.”
Former Amateur Champions Harry Ellis (left) and Scott Gregory (right) are in the field this week
Pictures by ANDREW GRIFFIN / AMG PICTURES
Two good finishes on Emerald Isle
CLEMENTS recorded his two best Challenge Tour finishes on the island of Ireland in 2019.
He took third place at Galgorm Castle and in the Stone Irish Challenge at Headfort Golf Club.
So Clements is looking forward to teeing it up on the Emerald Isle again. “I’m looking forward to getting back at it here at Galgorm,” he added.
“It’s a good course and I’ve got good memories here. I played well and that changed my year massively.
“Keeping your category next year is a big point because there’s no pressure.
“I’ve got a few things that I’d like to work on in my game. So I’m going to pinpoint those and see if they improve.
“If I can then go into next year with more events and the consistency of playing, then I’ll be able to see the progress.”
Joining Clements in the field this week is four-time European Tour winner Grégory Bourdy, five-time winner Michael Hoey – who represents Galgorm Castle Golf Club as its touring professional – and former Amateur Champions Bradley Neill and Hampshire pair Scott Gregory and Harry Ellis.
This week’s event is supported by The R&A COVID-19 Support Fund, a £7million package to help golf deal with the impact of the global pandemic.
The R&A’s fund is providing an additional £300,000 in support of the Challenge Tour in 2020 – on top of its existing annual grant.
The action gets under way on Thursday. JR Galbraith, Laurie Owen and Michael Rush make up the first group at 7.30am.
•For live scoring in the Northern Ireland Open, click here.