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Johansen loving it on home soil

Eirik Tage Johansen. © Simon B. Jensen
Eirik Tage Johansen. © Simon B. Jensen

Eirik Tage Johansen cannot wait to get started as the European Challenge Tour returns to Norway for the inaugural edition of the Viking Challenge.

The 35 year old is the highest-ranked Norwegian player in the field, entering the week in 60th place on the 2017 Road to Oman.

Having competed in the last Challenge Tour tournament in his homeland in 2014, Johansen has fond memories of Miklagard Golf – and is looking forward to the test posed by the lengthy 7,349-yard course.

“It is really great to be back in Norway,” he said. “I played here three years ago and this place is very special as they always make an effort to make things really nice – the greens, the fairways and the arrangement. They really want to do something special here.

“I live around 500 kilometres away on the west coast of Norway – even if it’s far away from home it feels a lot like home.

“If you are able to hit it 20 yards further than you do normally that will help you. I was speaking to Tapio Pulkkanen on the range, who is really long off the tee, and for someone like him it is just a different golf course compared to the one that the rest of us are playing – he can get so many more different lines and angles.

“It is also really important that you are accurate on the greens because if you miss on the wrong side then you will struggle to get up and down.

“When things are rolling they are slopey and getting up to a good speed, and although you can have an advantage off of the tee it will be won or lost on the greens.

“If you are able to play it smart and leave yourself with some uphill putts then you will be enjoying yourself this week.”

Johansen, who is one of 19 Norwegian players competing in Kløfta this week, recently claimed a share of fifth at the Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson – a result that has given him the confidence he can compete on the Challenge Tour.

“My game is coming along,” he said. “I had a good finish in Sweden – I snuck up in to the top five there – and this week I am just going to go out there to enjoy it and see how I go.

“Season-wise there have been a lot of ups and downs and I’ve just tried to make the most of the chances I have been getting.

“It is nice to know that you can put good rounds together and finish in the top five. It is going to be interesting to see how the field do this week as you can really vary the course – it can be really long and tough or the tournament organisers can make it a lot easier.

“Whatever they decide it is going to be a great week and it’s always nice to play in front of a home crowd.”

Joining Johansen at Miklagard Golf are France’s Julien Guerrier and Finland’s Pulkkanen – who sit in third and fourth place in the Road to Oman Rankings respectively.

Arriving in Norway in good form is Germany’s Christian Braeunig. The 25 year old lost out to eventual champion Robin Sciot-Siegrist in the semi-final stage of Shootout Sunday at last week’s Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open presented by Modest! Golf, but went on to finish third.

Among the home favourites are amateurs Mikkel Antonsen and Bard Skogen who, both aged 15, are the youngest players to compete on the Challenge Tour this season.