Euro rookie Jake Roos

From European Tour

2014 Alfred Dunhill Championship: Day 1He is a six-time winner on the Sunshine Tour and in his maiden season on the Challenge Tour he claimed two titles, so Jake Roos may well be one of the Rookies to watch this season.

The South African’s maiden campaign got off to a flying start at the Alfred Dunhill Championship as he stormed into an early lead at Leopard Creek Country Club but, while his rise to the higher echelons of the leaderboard on his first event as a European Tour member may have surprised some, those who have followed his career will have been far from shocked.

Indeed, his emergence on the European golf scene came courtesy of an early victory on the Challenge Tour – the first event of the 2014 season, no less – as he claimed the prestigious Barclays Kenya Open title on a sponsor’s invitation to secure a full card for the second tier.

Another win at July’s Aegean Airlines Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort meant he was just one more title away from automatic graduation to The European Tour, but a dip in form thereafter meant he still had to endure a nervous final week at the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club before securing the 14th card for The 2015 Race to Dubai.

Little wonder, then, that the 34 year old came out refreshed and with all guns blazing in the new season as he returned to doing what he does best – vying for titles.

“It was a big relief to get my European Tour card,” said the former South African amateur number one. “It was a tough last couple of weeks and it was great to finally know my destiny.

“It wasn’t in my hands in the end and it was tough. It’s a different kind of golf, you’re almost trying to get into a position on the leaderboard whereas normally you’re just out there to win the tournament. I don’t like that kind of golf but thankfully I can back to normal golf.

“It was a really busy year and it’s been great to get an opportunity to play a full season in Europe, but from the start I was in a position where you’re expected to make the top 15 so it was a different kind of pressure.

“It’s been a very mixed year, at times it’s been great to just be here and really enjoyable but then there were times where I just told myself, ‘OK, you need to step it up now and consolidate your position’.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot this year and I think I will be able to use that experience on The European Tour.”

The Pretorian will find a large coterie of familiar faces amongst The European Tour’s South African contingent – including former Challenge Tour alumni such as Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen – but the cosmopolitan nature of the developmental Tour, allied to Roos’ affable nature, meant he formed friendships easily during his debut season.

He said: “I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie between all the different nationalities on the Challenge Tour, that’s been a big aspect for me. I think the competition is very deep too. There are full fields every week and the courses are really good, especially in the Final Swing – there were some really good, testing lay-outs in the last two weeks

“It’s great for developing your career for the next stage. I’ve played all the South African events on The European Tour in the last few years and they’re all really nice events and it’ll be nice to go out and start playing normal golf.

Having only taken up golf aged 16 and turned professional at the age of 25, Roos is a late bloomer in the game but in the intervening years he has picked up one enviable habit – winning.

Six victories in five seasons on the Sunshine Tour gave him the confidence to make an immediate impact on the Challenge Tour, and now he is hoping to bring that winning form onto The European Tour and follow in the footsteps of compatriots such as Grace, Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman, who have all developed through the Challenge Tour en route to stardom.

“It doesn’t surprise me that so many South Africans have come through the Challenge Tour and gone on to great success,” said Roos, who was a competitive tennis player before getting hooked on golf as a teenager. “I’ve found out that it is very tough, a really good stepping stone, so I would love to follow in those guys’ footsteps.

“The key for me is going to be getting into contention enough. That’s something I need to work on with my game, to be up there more often because I’ve always done well when I got into contention

“There are a lot of good, challenging courses that I think will suit my game so I’d love to see what I can do on them.

“My putting has not been consistent enough at the end of last season at the Final Swing, but my ball-striking has been pretty consistent so if I can make a few more putts then I think I can be up there challenging.

“I took my time to get this level, where I have wanted to be for a long time, but the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are so it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve gained a lot of experience in a few different places so I think that will stand me in good stead.

“Everything was a bit backwards in my career, nowadays these guys are getting so prepped at such a young age so I’m not your conventional golf pro, but I’ll give it a go on my terms.”

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