Kristof Ulenaers: “Challenge Tour? It’s hard”
Kristof Ulenaers feels reinvigorated ahead of Road to Mallorca’s 2022 season as he hopes to win one of the 20 coveted DP World Tour maps, building on a solid foundation put in place this year. The Belgian has had a memorable year after securing his first professional victory at the Challenge de Cadiz in his first European Challenge Tour start after climbing the amateur ranks.
The 23-year-old plied his trade on the Pro Golf Tour earlier this year and finished second in the Dreamland Pyramids Classic in Egypt after Portugal’s Tomas Gouveia, who will take part in the Challenge Tour next year. , prevailed in play-off.
Ulenaers believes that playing in the pressurized environment created by the play-offs allowed him to win a week later in Spain on the Challenge Tour.
Kristof Ulenaers, statements
“After I graduated from college I played the Pro Golf Tour five times in my first year and it was truly a valuable experience,” he said.
“Then I started my first full season on the Pro Golf Tour and managed to qualify for a play-off in one of the events in Egypt. Even though I lost the play-offs, it allowed me to gain self-confidence and put myself in this high pressure scenario for the first time ”.
The Belgian burst onto the scene in Cadiz with consecutive rounds of 65 in the first two days, followed by a 67 to take a seven-stroke lead in the final day. The 23-year-old posted a par 72 round, despite a triple buggy on the 11th, to finish five strokes ahead of German Hurly Long for a remarkable first professional victory.
Ulenaers admits he will cherish victory for the rest of his life and thanked his younger son, Zach Karkaletsos, who offered essential advice and reassurance throughout. “A week after Egypt I took my first Challenge Tour victory in Cadiz,” said Ulenaers.
“I haven’t changed anything compared to the previous week and everything went very well for me. I came in with a great mentality and had a caddy that could calm my nerves through the tough times. Thinking about it now, this is something I will remember all my life, I look at this dashboard every month.
“I didn’t know anyone on the pitch so I was just focusing on myself, my game, my junior and I took it shot by shot. I was nine strokes ahead with two holes to go, it was an incredible feeling ”. A week later, Ulenaers impressed again with a tie for fifth in the Challenge de España, finishing two strokes behind future winner and Road to Mallorca number three Santiago Tarrio, and the Belgian went on to place 12th in the ranking Road to Mallorca in a strong position. to gain promotion to the next level.
The 23-year-old went on to suffer a big drop in form, making just two cuts in his next eight appearances as he started to slide up the standings. The Belgian showed signs of resurrection during the British Challenge Presented by Modest!
Golf Management after opening rounds 71-68, but he managed a weekend par 73-72 to tie for 53rd place at the Belfry. Ulenaers struggled to adjust to the harsh nature of the Challenge Tour as it impacted his mental and physical play, admitting he should have taken time to recover during the season.
“I was in a very difficult situation last year after the victory,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people came straight from the third level to suddenly win their first start of the Challenge Tour and have a little European Tour card.
“After this victory, I definitely made a few mistakes in scheduling my tournaments for the rest of the year. I just wanted to continue after this week, but it was a big shock to me both mentally and physically. My whole life has changed, so many things have come my way and everything has changed at the same time.
“At first I thought I was going to adapt but I never really took time off. I should have taken two weeks for myself at one point to sit down with my coaches or figure out my next goal ”. Ulenaers is proud of what he has achieved after reflecting on a memorable breakthrough season and looks to use it as a catalyst to continue his rise to the official world golf rankings, admitting he will be in a much better position. strong in 2022, after having had a year of experience on the Challenge Tour to his credit.
The 23-year-old plans to attack Route de Mallorca 2022 with a well-thought-out schedule that will see him reach peak performance levels with consistency throughout the season. “Throughout the season I started to get to the point where I was just presenting myself, but I wasn’t really ready to compete,” said Ulenaers.
“I definitely won’t make that mistake again next year. “The Challenge Tour is difficult. The tournaments come quickly and there are some really experienced guys who know how to plan their schedule.
They know how many weeks they need to take off to be the best they can be. “Now that the season is over I have had time to sit down and really think about the great season I have had. I have come from absolutely nowhere to be among the top 401 players in the official world golf rankings ”.
Ulenaers has a passion for doing business away from the golf course and is the founder of Sportmonkey, a women’s sportswear brand, but admits it became difficult to manage last year due to the Challenge Tour’s relentless schedule.
Having now hired someone to assist him next year, Ulenaers can now devote his full attention to the Challenge Tour. “I hired someone to help me with my business so that I could focus on golf,” he said.
“It’s important that I don’t worry about the business when I’m on the golf course and having that extra person ensures that my focus can stay on the golf course throughout the season. I always want to develop the business in my spare time because I have a real passion for it, it’s fun to do and it brings income ”.