Given the nature of the Challenge Tour successful title defences are a fairly rare occurrence, but David Vanegas has set his sights on becoming the first player for seven years to achieve the feat at the Abierto International Copa Antioquia.
The last man to mount a successful title defence on the Challenge Tour was Vanegas’ fellow South American Daniel Vancsik, who since winning three times between 2003 and 2005 has forged a highly successful career for himself on The European Tour, triumphing twice.
Vanegas’ career path thus far has been similar to that of Vancsik, as both players cut their teeth on the Tour de las Americas before taking their chance in events co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour.
For Vancsik’s victory at the 2003 Telefonica Centro America Abierto de Guatemala, a tournament he won again 12 months later in its reincarnation as the Abierto Telefonica, read Vanegas’ triumph last year at Club Deportivo El Rodeo in Sede La Macarena, Colombia.
At his home course, the 25 year old – who hails from Medellin, the same town as US PGA Tour champion Camilo Villegas – saw off all-comers to take the title by four strokes.
Vanegas recalled: “It was the best day of my life, no doubt. When I found the green on the last hole and knew the title was mine, I just couldn’t believe it. Winning was a dream come true, especially in my home country. It gave me so much confidence, and proved to me that I’m capable of winning at any level.”
Unfortunately for Vanegas he was ultimately unable to carry the momentum generated by his win through the remainder of the season, eventually finishing in 34th place in the final Challenge Tour Rankings, with a tie for 11th at the dual-ranking SAINT OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC his highest subsequent finish.
But despite finishing outside the all-important top 20 Vanegas still declared his campaign a qualified success, and firmly believes that the experience he gained from playing on a wide variety of courses in different conditions on the Challenge Tour will stand him in good stead.
Vanegas said: “I was obviously slightly disappointed not to have finished in the top 20 at the end of the year, because I started the season top of the Rankings after my victory in Colombia, and I played in enough tournaments after that to stay in the top 20. But at the same time everything was new for me – the countries, the tournaments, the other players, the weather and the courses.
“So it was a huge learning curve for me, and the best possible experience I could have. Having the chance to play in many different countries, on many types of course and with many good players helped me grow, both as a person and as a player. I really enjoyed it, and my game improved a lot. Now, to take my game to the next level, I need to work even harder on all aspects of my game, and especially my putting.”
To that end, Vanegas has spent most of the winter months honing his swing and putting stroke on the practice facilities at his home club, ahead of his title defence from March 10-13.
He said: “I have been doing three things since the Challenge Tour season finished – practice, practice and practice! So I’m feeling good about my game, and now I’m really looking forward to defending my title. There will obviously be some extra pressure on me this time after my win last year, but I think the attention is something I will enjoy. How I play will probably determine my plans for the rest of the season, but my goal is to get onto The European Tour. That would be a dream.”