Former amateur star Lucas Bjerregaard begins his rookie season on the European Challenge Tour at the Barclays Kenya Open this week and the Dane believes he has what it takes to live up to his billing as one of Europe’s top up-and-coming stars.
The 21-year-old had a glittering career in the unpaid ranks, winning two European Boys Team Championships with his home country in 2007 and 2009, before following in the footsteps of the likes of Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy by claiming the European Amateur Championship in 2010.
Bjerregaard’s transition to the professional game has been seamless as he finished first in the Nordic Golf League Order of Merit last year, securing a Challenge Tour card for the 2013 campaign.
Now, the Dane is relishing the opportunity to complete his rapid rise to The European Tour by finishing in the top-20 of the rankings this season.
“I am really looking forward to getting the season up and going,” said Bjerregaard. “I have been practicing in Florida for a few weeks, getting ready for this week.
“I just hope I can keep playing like I did last year and play well out here. The guys out here are really good so I have to play well.
“The amateur game and the Challenge Tour are completely different. You just start from fresh out here, these guys are so much better, so it’s going to be tough but I will do my best.
“It is a life experience here too, with a lot of new places and new players and I have to learn how to be a professional and how to play out here. There are a lot of things I have to get used to.
“My game is getting better though and I made some good changes in the winter time so I hope I can do it this year and make the step up.”
Denmark has in recent years become a conveyor belt for some of European golf’s most promising prospects and last season, Andreas Hartø, JB Hansen and Morten Orum Madsen – all under the age of 24 – progressed from the Challenge Tour to The European Tour.
Bjerregaard has been revelling in the success of his friends and compatriots, as well as drawing plenty of inspiration.
“It’s great to see those guys play well on the Challenge Tour last year and get top 20 and it inspires me to play well and it gives me confidence that I can do it as well,” he said.
“We all played together for a lot of years on the national team so we travelled a lot together a lot and we know each other very well so they’re all really good guys and I hope they do well on The European Tour this year.
“I will definitely be getting advice from the other guys. Morten is a good friend of mine. I have asked him for advice a few times already and he has been kind enough to help me with a few things.”
Bjerregaard is not the only former amateur star chasing a first professional win at the Barclays Kenya Open this week, with 2007 European Amateur Champion Benjamin Hebert also in the field, as well as former US Amateur Championship winners Byeong-hun An and Peter Uihlein.
There is also plenty of experience at Karen Country Club, with 2010 Hassan Trophée II winner Rhys Davies amongst the European Tour winners in the field, alongside José-Filipe Lima, Raymond Russell, Carl Suneson, Daniel Vancsik and Matthew Zions.