Cazoo Open: Wales' Rhys Enoch eyes European Tour success at Celtic Manor

By Gareth VincentBBC Sport Wales
Rhys Enoch: Welsh golfer will 'embrace' pressure of home crowd at Cazoo Open

There are some stellar names on the list of Wales Open golf winners, such as Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell.

What is missing from Celtic Manor's roll of honour is a home victor.

Rhys Davies came close in 2010, when he was runner-up to McDowell, who would return to the Newport venue a few months later to hole the winning putt in the Ryder Cup.

Bradley Dredge finished tied-second when South Africa's Richard Sterne triumphed in 2007.

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

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

Having played in four previous Wales Opens, he is determined to make the home crowd - a limited number of fans are being allowed to watch the tournament - an advantage.

"The home pressure can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing," Enoch says.

"You feel the weight of everyone. Everyone you see is saying 'Come on, get the win', which is great, but it doesn't really help.

"The process you have to go through is what counts.

"But I want to embrace it more, embrace everything rather than try to put it to the side, and enjoy it. I think that's when you play your best golf."

Played annually between 2000 and 2014, the Wales Open returned last year as part of the UK Swing, a run of tournaments organised as a result of Covid-19.

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

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

"I think it helps grow the stature of the event whenever a figure like Gareth Bale can put his name to something like that," Enoch says.

Enoch, whose dad Steve is Welsh, was born in Truro but began playing golf for Wales as a youngster.

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

Since winning on South Africa's Sunshine Tour in March, Enoch has played exclusively on the European Tour - although he has had to sit out the biggest events because he does not have a full Tour card.

The challenge is to do well enough in the tournaments he does play to finish in the top 110 on the Race to Dubai - he is currently 153rd - which would secure a full card for next year.

"That's what I have dreamt of since I was a kid and it's getting ever closer," Enoch says.

"Once you can say you have got a full European Tour card, the other goals become more realistic - winning, getting into the Race to Dubai [event at the end of the season], things like that."

Enoch has shown in spells this year that he has the talent to compete at the top level of the European game.

He turned heads at May's Canary Islands Championship when an extraordinary start put him seven under after five holes of the tournament, though he ended the week in a share of 23rd place.

At last month's Scandinavian Mixed in Sweden, Enoch was joint leader heading into the final round only to drop out of contention thanks to a 75.

"That was a big learning experience," he says.

"That's the third time I have led at a certain stage of an event. You have to put yourself in these positions. You need to figure out what you need to do under pressure.

"It's hard and things happen so quickly, but I am moving in the right direction, definitely."

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

He describes 2021 as "an almost season" so far - but there are plenty of opportunities to do something special ahead, starting on Thursday in his own backyard.

Enoch is not put off when reminded that the Wales Open has never been won by a local lad.

"Not until this week, no," he says with a smile.

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