Justin’s maiden European season starts at Mandela Championship

Justin Walters will start his first Race to Dubai at the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa this week, and he’s looking forward to his chance at the big time after grinding his way to a card.

“It was a long year in Europe and it’s always nice to come home and spend some time with your peers. You’re playing on a stage that can really improve your status in the game and get the year off to a great start, so it’s exciting indeed!” he said.

At 32 years old he’s in his golfing prime, and it showed when he finished 16th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, earning himself a full playing card for the 2013 European season.

“I’m going to build my year around my Challenge Tour success. If I get off to a bad start I’m going to tell myself that I’ve got a whole year. I proved myself over a year on the Challenge Tour and that’s what I’m going to try to do on this tour,” he said.

Walters has been a stalwart on the Sunshine Tour for a decade, and during that time has lifted three trophies and taken 17 top-10s. Playing the first few European Tour events on home soil will aid him as he takes the next big step.

“It’s been a quick turnaround from actually getting my card to being able to actually start the campaign. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet. I think once I get into events I haven’t played before, some of the bigger events in Europe, I’ll be excited,” he said.

The Country Club Johannesburg professional has made over a thousand birdies during his career in South Africa, but the last time he played at Royal Durban Golf Club was in 2009. He was keen to play the course again and test his mettle.

“We did qualifying for The Open a few years ago here, so I couldn’t remember most of the holes. It would have been interesting to get out there and have a bash about. I’ve got some tips from the local guys, so I’ve kind of got an idea,” he said.

Walters was keen to get the season off to a good start, but knew that there was plenty of golf to play throughout the season. Grinding through 2012 has produced a solid mental approach from him, and he’ll be a man to watch over the coming weeks.

“You can tell yourself that you were in Europe for a year and succeeded, you can lean on that experience and hang in there. The Challenge Tour certainly gets you ready for what faces you on the European Tour – the grind and travel and weather. I’m looking forward to seeing how I handle the challenges and pressures,” he said.

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