It has been an excellent start to the European Challenge Tour season for Kalle Samooja – but he believes he can do even better at this week’s Turkish Airlines Challenge.
Strong placings in the first two events have left him in fourth position on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah, with the top 15 earning a European Tour card at the season’s end.
The Finn kicked off the year in style with a tied third place finish at the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open, and backed it up two weeks later with four steady rounds at the Belt and Road Colourful Yunnan Open to finish in a share of 16th.
Impressively, through the first eight rounds of the 2018 Challenge Tour season, the 30 year old has yet to card a single round over par.
Despite a start to the year that has left him inside of the top 15 looking out, Samooja remains clear-minded when reviewing his play thus far.
“I’m very pleased with my start to the season. I was in really good form coming into the week in China, but a few too many mistakes cost me over the first two days,” said Samooja. “I was really happy with the way I bounced back over the weekend.
“It could have been a lot lower – I did have a few three-putts and I was disappointed to finish the tournament with a bogey – but all in all I am quite pleased with my start to the year.”
The Turkish Airlines Challenge represents a milestone for Samooja, who will be making his 50th career start on the Challenge Tour when he tees it up this week.
Discussing his result at the Barclays Kenya Open, the Finnish professional quickly demonstrated a feel for the leaderboard that can only come through years of experience.
“I was way back after two rounds,” he said. “I knew that the leading groups would struggle in the conditions on the Saturday afternoon, so I knew that if I posted a good number on Saturday I might be up there and that if I posted a good number on Sunday I would definitely be up there.
“That’s what happened and during my final one and a half rounds I was 14 under, so I found my game and played some really good golf. I hadn’t competed for four months over the winter, so it was great to be in contention straight away.”
Samooja, who spent part of his off-season practising in Ras Al Khaimah—where the Challenge Tour’s Road to Ras Al Khaimah will culminate— is not the only golfer from Finland enjoying success on the Challenge Tour.
Compatriots Kim Koivu, who recently ran away with the Belt and Road Colourful Yunnan Open for his first professional victory, Tapio Pulkkanen, who topped last year’s season-long Challenge Tour Rankings, and 2016 Nordic League graduate Oliver Lindell, who has returned to golf after completing his compulsory military service, are now, along with Samooja, establishing Finland’s presence as a golfing power.
“Although we are a small golfing country we are doing really well,” he said. “With Kim winning in China, with Tapio topping the Rankings and with young players like Oliver coming through it is a great time for Finnish golf.”
There are six Finnish players in the field this week — all of whom will be looking to avenge Tapio Pulkkanen’s second place result from last year when the Turkish Airlines Challenge kicks off at Gloria Golf Club on Thursday in Antalya, Turkey.