Cazoo Open: Wales’ Rhys Enoch aims for European tour success at Celtic Manor

Rhys Enoch: Welsh golfer will “accept” pressure from home crowd at Cazoo Open

There are a few stellar names on the Wales Open golf winner list, such as Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell.

What is missing from Celtic Manor’s honor roll is a home winner.

Rhys Davies came close in 2010, when he was second behind McDowell, who would return to the Newport site a few months later to score the winning Ryder Cup putt.

Bradley Dredge was tied for second when South African Richard Sterne triumphed in 2007.

Dredge will be part of the Welsh contingent trying to rewrite the record books this week, as will Rhys Enoch.

Enoch, 33, is having a positive season as he seeks to establish himself on the European Tour.

Having competed in four previous Wales Openings he is determined to make the local audience – a limited number of fans are allowed to watch the tournament – a benefit.

“Home pressure can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing,” Enoch says.

“You feel everyone’s weight. Everyone you see says ‘Go on, win’ which is great, but that doesn’t really help.

“The process you have to go through is what matters.

“But I want to embrace it more, embrace everything rather than trying to put it aside and enjoy it. I think that’s when you play your best golf.”

Played every year between 2000 and 2014, the Wales Open returned last year as part of the UK Swing, a series of tournaments organized in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Rhys Enoch has qualified for the Open Championship twice and reached the US Open in 2019

This year’s event, named the Cazoo Open for sponsorship reasons, is supported by Wales’ best-known golf fan Gareth Bale.

“I think it helps increase the stature of the event whenever a figure like Gareth Bale can put his name on something like that,” Enoch said.

Enoch, whose father Steve is Welsh, was born in Truro but started playing golf for Wales in his youth.

When he is on these shores, he trains just down the road from Celtic Manor at Parc Golf Club.

Since winning the Sunshine Tour of South Africa in March, Enoch has played exclusively on the European Tour – although he has had to miss larger events as he does not have a full Tour card.

The challenge is to be successful enough in the tournaments he participates in to finish in the top 110 of the Race to Dubai – he is currently 153rd – which would ensure him a full card for next year.

“This is what I dreamed of since I was a child and it’s getting closer and closer,” says Enoch.

“Once you can say you have a full European Tour map, the other goals become more realistic – to win, to participate in the Race to Dubai [event at the end of the season], things like that.”

Enoch has shown by spells this year that he has the talent to compete at the highest level of European football.

He turned heads at the Canary Islands Championship in May when an extraordinary start put him seven under after five holes of the tournament, despite finishing the week in 23rd place.

At the Scandinavian Mixed in Sweden last month, Enoch was co-lead before the final round to drop out of the competition with a 75.

“It was a great learning experience,” he says.

“This is the third time that I have led to a certain stage of an event. You have to put yourself in these positions. You have to determine what to do under pressure.

“It’s tough and things happen so fast, but I’m headed in the right direction, definitely.”

The hope is that the Swedish experience will give Enoch more joy the next time he is in contention.

He describes 2021 as “almost a season” so far – but there are plenty of opportunities to do something special ahead, starting Thursday in his own backyard.

Enoch is not put off when reminded that the Wales Open was never won by a local boy.

“Not until this week, no,” he said with a smile.

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