Walters looking for step up in Dubai

Justin Walters tees off in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic early tomorrow morning as he continues his quest to carve a niche for himself on the European Tour.

Walters, 32, will start the tournament in Dubai playing with England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Filipe Aguilar of Chile, and he will be hoping he can put his missed cut in Qatar last week behind him as he builds on his solid start to the 2013 Race to Dubai in the two South African tournaments which kicked it off.

He had a pair of top-20s to kick off his European Tour career late last year with a share of 14th in the rain-ravaged Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban and of 20th in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

This was after taking a share of fifth place in the 2012 Apulia San Domenico Grand Final to leap into the top 20 of the Challenge Tour rankings. He was 23rd heading into the season’s final event, but moved up to 15th place and grabbed a European Tour card for 2013.

While it was a comfortable start to his European Tour career, he was acutely aware that making that start at home in South Africa made things easier for him.

Just how tough it is to break into the big time was brought home when he missed the cut with rounds of 72 and 74 in Doha last week, but they weren’t poor rounds which left him just two strokes adrift of the cut line.

He is one of eight South Africans in the field which also sees Lee Westwood making his first start in 2013. The other South Africans are Jbe’ Kruger, Darren Fichardt, Richard Sterne, Jaco van Zyl, Garth Mulroy, Hennie Otto and Keith Horne.

Walters will draw some inspiration from playing partner Fleetwood, who finished in a share of sixth in the South African Open Championship in November behind Henrik Stenson after a tough rookie season.

Fleetwood was the youngest player to win the Challenge Tour rankings in 2011, aged 20 and 290 days, helped largely by his victory in the lucrative Kazakhstan Open, and his SA Open performance was comfortably his best of 2012 which had started so promisingly with a share of 18th in the Africa Open.

The parallels won’t be lost on Walters and he will note that perseverance pays off.

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