Browne eyes repeat in Kazakhstan

From Brian Keogh in Kazakhstan

Stephen Browne has promised to repeat his party piece of 2005 and sing Danny Boy in the shadow of Almaty's Tien Shen mountains if he wins the E 330,000 Kazakhstan Open for the second time at Nurtau Gofl Club on Sunday.

In what was the first ever golf professional golf tournament hed in the Central Asian republic, the then 31 year old Dubliner squeaked past his room-mate Colm Moriarty by a shot to earn his the European Tour card by bounding into the top 10 on teh Challenge Tour rankings.

Now 33, Browne is back to "defend" the title and he will do so by rooming with Moriarty again and taking on the same local caddie in a bid to generate some kind of eastern karma.

Unlike two years ago, when he was ranked outside the top 100 on the Challenge Tour, Browne arrived in Almaty at 64th in the rankings. And with a winner's cheque for E52,800 on offer, the biggest in Challenge Tour history, he could earn a dream return to the main tour if he finishes the season inside the top 20 money winners.

But the same also goes for Ireland's World Cup pairing of Gareth Maybin (49th) and Michael Hoey (42nd), while Moriarty is the best placed of them all at 26th, a mere E9,000 behind the absent Peter Baker in 20th place.

"I wouldn't say I am all that superstitious but I like to stick to my routine, so rooming with Colm and getting Malaca as my caddie again shouldn't do me any harm," Browne said. "It was and amazing experience to come here two years ago with no expectations, win the event and get my tour card.

"I had no money up on the rankings back then - in think I was 110th - so I am in a better situation this year. As Tiger Woods said at the FedEx recently, you can only be the first winner once. So I will still have that for the rest of my golfing career.

"The Kazakhstan Open is the biggest event on the Challenge Tour rota. Winning it two years ago gave me the chance to live my dream and play on the European Tour. Hopefully, if things go well this week, I will be able to live that dream again next year.

"But the course is way tougher than I remember. They have lengthened it a lot and the rough is deeper and more consistent.

"They've added about 100 yards to the back nine alone and the par-five 17th has gone from being a rescue and an eight iron to a driver and a three wood."

Moriarty is aware that a repeat of his 2005 performance willl put him on the main tour next year. But for Hoey and Maybin, their first objectve is to consolidate their positions in the top 45 ranked players that go tpo the Challenge Tour Gran final and earn a free ticket to the European Qualifying School finals in November.

Thoughts of the Mission Hills World Cup and Monday's trip to Aruba for the qualifiers are very much on the back burner.

Derry's Michael McGeady needs a good week just to secure his Challenge Tour card for next year as he is 205th in the rankings after a poor season so far.

But like Browne in 2005, a victory out of nowhere would put him in position to play with the stars next year.