CHORLEY professional Nick Dougherty insists he’s ready to put the lows of last year behind him and recapture the form that saw him lift the Dunhill Links Championship in 2007.

The 26-year-old’s life on and off the course was turned upside down last April when his mother, Ennis, died suddenly of a heart attack.

Dougherty, who attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School near Blackburn, vowed to reach mentor Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup team in her memory but his form nosedived and the closest he got to Europe’s defeat in Valhalla was watching on television.

But after a prolonged break from the game, Dougherty, who has dropped to 98 in the European Tour rankings, believes he is ready to challenge at the top of the leaderboard again.

“I’m refreshed, I’m playing well and really excited about this year,” said the Shaw Hill professional.

“I think I’m going to get back to the top and the form I showed when I won the Dunhill.

“Last year was a really ropey one – after what happened with my mum my form really spiralled.

“I was really close to my mum and it was tough dealing with it in the public eye. I still had a great chance to make the Ryder Cup team at that stage and I wanted to make it for her.

“It turns out that it was the worst thing I could have done but it seemed the right thing at the time.

“But I want to win again and I want to get back to the top of the game where I was in 2007, it was a great year for me and I played great in the US Open that year.

“That’s where I need to get back to, that’s where I picture myself and I believe that’s where I should be.”

Dougherty has yet to claim a top-10 finish in 2009 but a tie for 14th at the Johnnie Walker Classic and a 15th place at the Malaysian Open suggest he’s heading in the right direction.

The Liverpool-born golfer is currently 103rd in this year’s Race to Dubai order of merit with earnings of 68,000 Euros from his eight starts. In comparison, last year – the Masters was his eighth – Dougherty had banked more than 190,000 Euros and had missed the cut just once.

Dougherty set the next generation of golfers on the road to the top at the launch of HSBC’s Wee Wonders 2009 tournament in March but returns to action at the Beijing International Club tomorrow.

But the North West star admitted his frustration after his watching brief when the Major season begun last week with the US Masters.

Dougherty finished tied for 33rd on his Augusta debut 12 months ago and added: “It really hurts that I wasn’t at the Masters again.

“Last year was a fantastic week for me and it was the last time I saw my mum alive but I watched it – it’s good for the soul to do that sometimes.

“I’m playing better than my results so far would suggest. Confidence is always the last thing to come back – that’s what took a really bad hit.

“Technically I’m better than I ever have been, physically I’m stronger and fitter and mentally I’m improving all the time but I’m just waiting for the confidence to click.

“It’s very close and it will happen just as long as I don’t try and make it happen and some good results in the next month will set me up nicely for the season.”

l HSBC Wee Wonders is a national golf competition for 5-12-year-olds of all standards. To find out more and sign-up for the event visit or call 0207 862 0060