Thriston Lawrence is hoping to feed off the remarkable performance last week of the man who succeeded him as Lytham Trophy champion, Marcus Kinhult, as the young South African looks to kick-start his European Challenge Tour career at this week’s KPMG Trophy.
The 18 year old has been heralded as one of the most promising young stars to emerge from the golfing hotbed of South Africa in recent years, having won his national amateur title twice in succession – breaking the record as the youngest winner the first time out, at 16 years, two months and 26 days.
After the second of those SA Amateur titles in 2014, Lawrence went on to claim the prestigious Lytham Trophy before making his professional debut at the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts last year.
Kinhult was the man who dethroned Lawrence as Lytham Trophy champion last month and the Swede’s stunning performance at last week’s Nordea Masters, where the 18 year old shared the lead at the halfway stage before falling behind on Saturday, has provided inspiration aplenty for the Mpumalanga player.
“I did see him last week and he was very impressive,” said Lawrence. “I think I’ve played with him before in a junior event and he is a very good golfer, but it’s all about confidence and he is very confident.
“To win the Lytham Trophy and then go on to lead a European Tour event, that’s just confidence and it would have been great for him to win it.
“It inspires me, for sure, because he achieved similar things that I did as an amateur and now he’s been a leader at a European Tour event so if he’s good enough I’m probably good enough. It gives me confidence.
“When I played amateur golf in South Africa, I had three decent weeks, top 20, top tens and then the fourth week was a win. On the Challenge Tour, I haven’t got that top ten or top 20 yet to just give me a boost.
“A top ten would really help, or even a top 30, something like that would give me a lot of confidence and momentum. You can’t miss three cuts in four events and then try and win the next one, you need momentum to build up to a winning week.”
This week’s venue, Golf de Pierpont at Les Bons Villers, hosts the event for the first time so Lawrence enters the week with a clean slate with regard to the lay-out.
For a player who is contending his first full season on the Challenge Tour, however, that is a familiar refrain but he knows that once he can settle into life as a touring professional, and the venues become more familiar, it will only help in his ambitions to reach the highest echelons of the game.
“I don’t know anything about the venue this week,” he said. “But you’ve just got to go with the flow, go to the golf course and plan it out week by week.
“I think it’s easier for the guys who have been on the Challenge Tour for several years, they play some of the same courses every year so it must be much easier when you’re comfortable with the course.
“Last week, I had played that course before and I was really comfortable with it. But I didn’t take my chances out there.
“My game was feeling good enough to win last week. I missed the cut by two shots so that’s poor, but I really felt like my game was up there, it was good enough. Just a few bad mistakes and a few bad breaks cost me. I’m going to try and just work hard and hopefully I can give it a good go this week.”
Lawrence is joined in Belgium by a strong field which includes his compatriot Oliver Bekker, who led going into the final round of last week’s Swiss Challenge presented by Association Suisse de Golf before finishing in a share of tenth place.
Franҫois Calmels, winner of this event in 2009, also returns hoping to add to his three Challenge Tour titles.
Local hopes will ride on Thomas Pieters, currently 54th in the 2015 Race to Dubai, Pierre Relecom, a winner on the Challenge Tour last year, as well as Hugues Joannes, who finished 35th in the Road to Oman Rankings last year after an extremely consistent season but is still chasing a maiden title.