Tom Gandy returned to European Tour action at the Austrian Open last week.

The Rowany golfer had been planning to begin his 2021 season on the Challenge Tour in South Africa.

But, thanks to his excellent performance at Qualifying School - or Q-School as it is better known - in 2019, the Manxman earned a place at the Austrian Open, his ninth full European Tour start.

Unfortunately, the recent circuit-breaker lockdowns in the Isle of Man significantly curtailed his preparations for the new season.

Hosted by the Diamond Golf Club near Vienna, the Austrian event had a prize fund of â?¬1m and pitted the Isle of Man golfer against some of the sport’s top names, headed by former Ryder Cup star and major winner Martin Kaymer.

With rounds of 78 and 75 seeing him miss the halfway cut, the Austrian Open result was not the start to the season the Rowany man had been hoping for. But there were still some birdies to cheer and even a disappointing outcome couldn’t dampen Tom’s enthusiasm for being back in the heat of competition.

’It was good fun, despite the result. I played some good stuff and definitely shook off some rust.

’It was really great to be back out there competing. It would’ve been a really tricky week in the middle of the season, never mind the first event in nearly six months.

’Trying to get back into the swing of it and in the habit of making good strategic decisions was the real test, but when you inevitably made a ’bad’ call or hit a poor shot (which happens) it was a tough place with the conditions and the course set-up (sloping, fast greens) making saving par tough.

’I really enjoyed being back out there though and playing with more of a purpose. The result wasn’t great but I’d be lying if I said I’d expected to tear it up first week out.’

It was all-change for Gandy this week as a last-minute offer to play in the Canary Islands saw him switch his travel plans and prepare for a second consecutive European Tour start.

Initially expecting to travel to Limpopo in South Africa to kick off his Challenge Tour season, the opportunity to remain on the full European Tour for at least another week and test himself against the best players on the continent was simply too good to pass up.

It means that Tom’s assault on the Challenge Tour has been put on hold until that tour returns to Europe next month, but with the prospect of a career-changing result each time he tees it up on the full European Tour, it is certainly an exciting time for the Manx star.

The Gran Canaria Lopesan Open is the first of three events in the Canary Islands in successive weeks as the European Tour continues its outstanding job of delivering top-class competitive golf, despite the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on international travel.

It has also opened up some great new venues to the tour, offering the players the chance to discover new courses and challenges.

Looking at the current entry lists, it is likely that Gandy will also tee it up for the two subsequent weeks at the Tenerife Open and the Tenerife Championships, giving him the opportunity to get four straight events under his belt at the top level.

For anyone looking to follow Tom this week, all four days of the event are being covered on Sky Sports Golf, with coverage starting at 2pm today (Thursday) and Gandy teeing off at 2.10. You can also follow his progress on the European Tour app.