Emerging talent Max Kieffer (pictured), born and bred in the Rhineland region of Germany, reveals his hopes for this season – his second on the European Tour – and beyond, his round with Rory McIlroy and the secret to his early successes….
You line up at the BMW International Open (June 26-29) as a pro for the second time this year. What do you expect from your first “home event” in the Rhineland?
I obviously hope for great support from my fans here in the region. I was born in Bergisch-Gladbach and now live in Düsseldorf, so I am born-and-bred Rhinelander. I am really pleased to be able to take my place as a pro at the BMW International Open in my home region for the first time.
Does the fact that you are playing at home put you under any additional pressure?
I put pressure on myself to perform well at every tournament, but that pressure is obviously even greater at the only tournament on German soil, simply because it is so important to me. With fans behind me, I am sure I can find a few extra per cent out on the course.
How well do you know the course at Gut Lärchenhof – and does this Jack Nicklaus design suit your game?
I have practised there relatively frequently, but the tournament set-up is obviously different. I have often shot low rounds there when it has just been for fun. I hope that the course is relatively hard and dry during the tournament week, as my knowledge of the course will be even more of an advantage then.
What are your goals for this year’s BMW International Open?
Ideally I would find myself in a position to challenge for the win come Sunday.
Last year, as a rookie, you wasted no time in achieving your goal for the season to secure your Tour card and narrowly missed out on your first European Tour title at the Open de España in Valencia in April. What are your goals for this season?
I hope to make it into the top 60 in the Race to Dubai and to be in contention at the odd tournament.
You could give yourself the best possible birthday present – you will be 24 on the 25th June…
My first win at the only professional tournament in Germany – and in my backyard – that would obviously be awesome! But I am not focusing on that, but on playing my best golf and putting on a show for the spectators.
You have played alongside people like Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington – some of the biggest names in the sport. Were you able to learn anything from them?
It is fantastic for a younger player like me to be able to test themselves against the best players in the world at such big tournaments. I can obviously learn from players like Rory and Paddy. I have noticed that the guys have more variety to their games and are more consistent on and around the greens. However, you also have to make sure that you concentrate on your own game.
Many European Tour players also play on the US PGA TOUR. Is that also one of your main goals?
I would first like to establish myself as one of the best players in Europe, then we’ll see what happens.
Another big dream must be to play in the Ryder Cup, which is taking place again this year. When do you think we might see you playing for the European team?
That is hard to say, so my answer is very pragmatic: I will represent Europe in the Ryder Cup when I qualify for the team or the captain offers me a wildcard.
You have already touched on the fact that Kieffer, Kaymer and Siem – the top three golfers in Germany at present – all come from the Rhineland region. Is there something in the air?
I would not like to offer any bold theories. I think this idea that the whole area is a strong golfing region can really be traced back to the individual strengths of Martin, Marcel and Me. At the same time, however, you have to say that we have a lot of good trainers in North Rhine-Westphalia, and the strength of depth among the juniors provides additional motivation and drive.
You have just secured a new contract as brand ambassador for Air Partner. Can you tell us about them?
Air Partner has commercial, jet and freight divisions providing aviation charter services to commerce, governments and individuals around the world. I am closely associated with the private jet division which organises on demand charters for business and personal travellers. With the increasing demand for golf holidays, private jet charter is now considered a viable and of course luxurious option for groups of golfers who want to play the best courses in the world.
We all know how pressurised the tour schedule is and the distances you have to travel. Can you imagine one day owning your own plane as many of the American pros do?
The travel can be stressful as we cover such enormous distances during the course of the season! I know a lot of the American golfers have their own personal private jets but it is smarter in my mind to charter than to own because planes cost a lot of money to run, and like cars, depreciate.
Would you recommend private jet charter for groups of golfers holidaying together?
Golfers love to play the dream courses around the world and Air Partner offers access to the most renowned, remote and exotic overseas golf destinations avoiding the attendant delays, queues and hassles that accompany busy airports.
Jet charter offers flexibility too, if there is a change in the weather Air Partner can often alter the destination; if the plays runs on or the party want to stay longer, the company can get a later slot. Private jets can be used for day returns too enabling golfers to reach their chosen European golf destination, play 18 holes and return home the same day! The company even has a JetCard scheme for on demand travel.
Finally, this summer the World Cup is taking place in Brazil. Who do you think will be world champions?
I am hoping for a Germany v Brazil final and that Germany wins! Air Partner is actually helping to provide a solution to all the travel, accommodation and safety issues that have come up. They’ve thought of everything!