HAVING missed out on the Challenge Tour’s Grand Final in Dubai this week by more than 50 spots, Lloyd Saltman would appear to be in brittle shape for the ten-round test he is hoping can kickstart his career.
Using the second-tier circuit’s final regular event of the season in Oman to stop the slump that had seen him miss seven successive cuts, however, has perked the 28-year-old up for his crack at the European Tour Qualifying School.
Stage two begins on Saturday at four venues in Spain, with Saltman joining the hopefuls at El Saler in Valencia, along with compatriots George Murray, Neil Fenwick, Paul Ferrier, Wallace Booth and Scott Crichton.
Four rounds in that are followed by six more in the final stage in Girona almost straight afterwards but, having passed the marathon test in 2010 – he claimed a card then along with elder brother Elliot – Saltman is hoping it can once again bring out the best in him.
“It’s been a poor year and that’s proved very frustrating,” said the Archerfield Links player of making just four cuts in 18 starts on the Challenge Tour and finishing 96th on the money-list. “I’ve not achieved any consistency, so it was good to get a few weeks off recently to work on my game.
“The signs were better in Oman last week, when making the cut was pleasing after getting into a rut and missing a few. The break gave me the chance to sit down, refocus and work out what I needed to do.”
Saltman’s slump came after the joy he felt at qualifying for the Open Championship at Muirfield – on his own doorstep – quickly turned into disappointment as he carved two balls out bounds from the first tee in the opening round.
“I had a bad run after The Open and I think the reason for that was that I got caught up in thinking the wrong things,” added the Silver Medal winner in the same event at St Andrews in 2005. “So to get four rounds under my belt was a step in the right direction, especially before the Tour School.
“It doesn’t take long in this game for your confidence to be affected either way. If I can have a good Tour School, then it could change my whole year.
“Getting a card gets you into some events in South Africa before Christmas, so my aim is to excel at the Qualifying School, which is the only way I know of getting my card. I’ve not managed it off the Challenge Tour, but I’ve got good memories from the Qualifying School so I just need to focus on going there with my head in the right place.
“Golf is a massive learning curve and the last couple of months have probably been the biggest part of that for me so far in my career. It has made me realise what I need to do to move forward. I’m a bit older now and think that’s easier to do.
“I’m still seeing [long-time coach] Colin Brooks but have also been receiving a bit of help from [Archerfield Links-based] Gary Nicol. One of my problems is that I got caught up in trying to find the perfect swing rather than just going out and doing what I did to get me into the paid ranks in the first place.
“I’ve been back out on the golf course a lot more recently. That’s something my dad had always been keen for me to do but, instead, I was spending a long time on the range.”
Saltman is not the first to take time to make progress in the paid ranks and won’t be the last. “I’m lucky to be in a sport where you don’t have to be young to be successful,” said the prolific amateur winner. “Golf is a mature game. Look at Jason Dufner. He didn’t become a major winner overnight. Steve Stricker is another good example. He did well early in his career, then dropped back but is now playing as good as he’s ever done.
“In this game it’s about learning from your mistakes. I think I was probably oblivious to a lot of things earlier in my career, but that’s no longer the case. Hopefully, things will start to look up again at the Qualifying School then I can crack on from there.”
In addition to a successful cut under his belt, Saltman is heading for Spain with a new sponsorship from Links of Strathaven, a golf clothing company owned by former Archerfield member Graham Hillan.
“Lloyd has always come across as a polite guy and is a great face for our brand,” said Hillan. “He just needs a bit of luck to see his career take off again and, hopefully, this sponsorship will take some pressure off him.”