Matt Southgate braced for European Tour debut

Essex golfer Matt Southgate says he cannot wait to brush shoulders with the sport's elite on the European tour.

The 23-year-old, who lives in Southend, came through qualifying school earlier this month to book a place on the tour in 2012.

He told BBC Essex: "If I play well I'll be going head-to-head with some of the world's best. Just thinking about that alone is so exciting.

"Hopefully I can press on and start achieving dreams."

Southgate missed out on one of the 20 places given to the highest finishers on the 2011 Challenge Tour, finishing 26th in the standings.

To go to qualifying school, get stuck in and finish top 30 was just superb

Matt Southgate

But a finish of 8-under par after six rounds in the final qualifying stage for the tour in Spain ensured he placed inside the top 30, securing a tour card in the process.

Southgate added: "I never seem to do things the easy way. It was a long year on the Challenge Tour and I had lots of opportunities but there are so many other good players to beat.

"To go to qualifying school, get stuck in and finish top 30 was just superb."

Southgate is one of three Essex golfers to have qualified for the European Tour next year.

Jamie Moul (Colchester) secured a spot with a high finish on the Challenge Tour, whilst Lloyd Kennedy (Chelmsford) also came through qualifying school.

All three are set to make their European Tour debut in the Africa Open on January 5th.