EYEBROWS may have been raised when Ross Kellett turned down a tempting invitation to play in last year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open but, ultimately, the Motherwell man gained a more satisfying reward for retaining his focus.
By finishing fifth on the Alps Tour money-list last season, Kellett earned a step up to the Challenge Tour and is now set to make his debut on the second-tier circuit as one of ten Scots in this week’s Barclays Kenya Open in Nairobi.
Instead of joining fellow rookies James Byrne, David Law and Michael Stewart in the star-studded field at Castle Stuart last July, Kellett was in Italy recording his maiden success in the professional ranks.
A cheque for just under £5,000 – his prize for winning the Montecchia Open – may only have been slightly more than the players finishing in a tie for 68th received in the Highlands but every penny counted for the 25-year-old.
“Last year my goal for the season was to finish in the top five on the Alps Tour Order of Merit,” said Kellett. “I put all my focus into that, which proved very important in the end as my full season came down to the last round to see who progressed to Challenge Tour.
“My final round of the season in southern France was very tough mentally but one I got through and learned a lot from, so it will stand me in good stead going forward.
“It was difficult to focus on just the golf as there were lots of other things entering my thoughts but you learn from it.”
Having just missed out on a place in the season’s Challenge Tour curtain-raiser in India a fortnight ago – he ended up as second reserve – Kellett is eager to make his first competitive start since early November.
The man who is regarded by his coach, Ian Rae, as a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication has “wintered well” by practising in Abu Dhabi and Spain and is relishing his new challenge.
“This is my first Challenge Tour event as a pro and I’m excited to be getting started,” added Kellett. “I know the level will be higher than last year but, like anything you do in life, as you move forward, it only gets harder.
“There are lots of good things happening in Scottish golf at the moment. Scott Jamieson and Stephen Gallacher have both won on the European Tour this season, while David Law and James Byrne have tasted success, too, lately. Thing like that can only make you want to get playing with a scorecard in your hand again.”
Law, fresh from his success on the Pro Golf Tour in Turkey, is also in the field for the African event.
The other Scots are Raymond Russell, Lloyd Saltman, Steven O’Hara, George Murray, Andrew McArthur, Jamie McLeary, Wallace Booth and Duncan Stewart.