Henrik Stenson’s meteoric rise from European Challenge Tour graduate to European Tour champion will this week serve as an inspiration for the young hopefuls lining up in The Princess, the new €300,000 Challenge Tour event the Swede is supporting.
The World Number Six – who will play an exhibition match against fellow European Tour champion Adam Scott of Australia once the main action has unfolded at Båstad Golf Club in Båstad, Sweden – topped the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2000, thanks largely to a hat-trick of victories.
Since then, no fewer than 19 of Stenson’s compatriots have followed his lead by earning promotion to The European Tour via the Challenge Tour Rankings, though only Johan Edfors in 2003 was able to match his achievement of graduating as the Number One.
The last time a Swede tasted success on the Challenge Tour was in August 2008, when Klas Eriksson captured the Trophée du Golf Club de Genève.
But with the new breed of Swedish golfers such as Jonas Blixt, Oscar Floren, Steven Jeppesen and Joel Sjöholm – all of whom are under 25 – joining some of the older guard at Båstad Golf Club, Stenson is confident of a strong showing from the home contingent.
He said: “It should be a great week for everyone involved with the tournament. It’s going to be exciting to see who comes through, especially from a Swedish perspective, because we want our best young players to play against some of the best up and coming players in Europe. It’s important that they have the chance to measure themselves against the best, and if the tournament helps a few of them along the way and pushes them towards The European Tour, then so much the better.
“I think it’s really important for Sweden to have a Challenge Tour event, because we need to get back to where we were. When I started out we had three Challenge Tour events in Sweden but now it’s down to only one, so hopefully we can build that up again.”
Stenson has certainly built on the foundations he laid during his two season stint on the Challenge Tour, since when he has captured six European Tour titles before more recently making his US PGA Tour breakthrough in The Players Championship.
But without the experience he gained from playing Challenge Tour events like The Princess, Stenson believes he might not have enjoyed such astounding success.
He said: “There are a lot of players who have done well on the Challenge Tour and then gone on to great things, so hopefully we will see another young player emerge this week. My time on the Challenge Tour was so good for me in terms of preparing me for life on the main Tour. To graduate from the Challenge Tour you have to play consistently well over the course of the season, so it’s a real test.”
Some of the form horses coming into the tournament include Wales’ Sion E Bebb, Spain’s Javier Colomo, Portugal’s José-Filipe Lima, the English pair of Richard McEvoy and James Morrison and Australia’s Andrew Tampion, all of whom finished in the top ten in last week’s dual ranking SAINT-OMER Open presented by Neuflize OBC, won by Sweden’s Christian Nilsson.