By European Tour
Justin Walters returns to the tournament in which he produced one of the most emotional moments of The 2013 European Tour season when he plays this week’s Portugal Masters, hoping once again to claim a season-changing result.
The South African holed a 40-foot putt at the final hole to claim a runner-up finish behind winner David Lynn and secure his European Tour card for another season, a moment made all the more special given his mother had died just a fortnight earlier.
Walters, who wept on the 18th green and spoke of how he felt his mother was watching over as he lined up the putt, enters this week’s tournament at Oceånico Victoria GC in a similar situation in golfing terms, but much happier generally.
He lies 128th in The Race to Dubai and is in need of a big week soon in order to secure his card for the 2015 season, but that is tempered by the fact he has recently become a father for the first time.
“I've managed to see a couple of replays of last year, like when I won the Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year Award and they put a video on about it,” said Walters. “It really stirred a lot of emotions for me.
“Unfortunately I'm in a similar position to last year where I need to try to pull something out of the hat in order to keep my job out here.
“I'm going into a similar week in that sense, but obviously it’s not as emotional without dealing with the loss of my mother. This year I go back with my young son of ten weeks old. So last year it was the mourning of a loss whereas this year I go there celebrating the arrival of a new child.
“Hopefully the golf will be the same as last year and I can do something special again. I made a lot of putts last year. I felt like I played very similar to how I did for most of the year but just made everything I looked at, and if I can do the same this year then great. Hopefully I’ll be reading the greens like I did back then.”
The Vilamoura venue is one of the most popular on The European Tour and Walters admits it is a course and a country he loves visiting.
“I'm looking forward to some sunshine and warmth that’s for sure,” he said. “And it’s a course that I really like the look of. I've always liked Portugal – it’s one of the first places I ever played professional golf – so I'm really looking forward to going back.
“It’s just a great place to be and I have been looking forward to going back all year. I just hoped I wouldn’t be under the same kind of pressure. Some weeks are just your weeks and you can go back the next year and not play well – you can’t really rely on anything. But when you do arrive you can draw on positive memories and that never hurts your chances.
“I want to go and create some new memories and do something special again so I look forward to hopefully doing that.”
Lynn will return to defend the title he won in such stunning fashion last year, carding a brilliant eight under par 63 to finish one shot clear.
Major winners Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke are also in the field, while the home charge will be led by Ricardo Santos as he returns to his home course in search of a second European Tour title on Portuguese soil, his first and only win coming at the 2012 Madeira Islands Open.