Friday, 04 January 2013
Julien Quesne  (Getty Images)
Julien Quesne (Getty Images)

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  • Ricardo Santos - 2012 Madeira Islands Open champion
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Julien Quesne and Ricardo Santos were the flag-bearers for the 2011 Challenge Tour graduates on The European Tour in 2012, leading the way with a victory each and some thrilling performances.

In March Quesne captured the Open de Andalucía Costa del Sol with a stunning final round of 64, and he finished the season 63rd in The Race to Dubai, the highest of all the 2011 graduates.

Two months later Santos sealed a magnificent victory on home soil in the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal, blowing away the rest of the field in the final round with a sublime 63 for a four-stroke win. The 30 year old ended the season in 90th place in The Race to Dubai and became the first Portuguese recipient of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.

Englishman Matthew Baldwin was another strong contender for Rookie of the Year after flourishing in his maiden season. The 26 year old made a superb start to 2012 by finishing tied tenth in the Africa Open in January, before continuing to impress throughout the campaign, which culminated in 72nd place in The Race to Dubai.

While his best finish was tied fifth place in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links in July, two of Baldwin’s highlights are sure to be making the cut in both the US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco and The 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.

Tommy Fleetwood, the 2011 Challenge Tour Number One, initially struggled to live up to the lofty expectations placed on his young shoulders, but produced a gutsy performance when it mattered most, taking a share of sixth place in the final event of the season, the SA Open Championship, to jump into the top 119 in The Race to Dubai and ensure his playing rights for 2013.

Spaniard Jorge Campillo enjoyed a magnificent start by taking a share of second place in the Avantha Masters in India in February, and a top five finish in the Reale Seguros Open de España helped him take 81st spot in The Race to Dubai.

The sixth and final 2011 graduate to ensure another season on The European Tour was Scotsman Craig Lee, who benefited from a flying start – a tied eighth place finish in the Africa Open in January – and a top ten in the Irish Open in the summer.

Graduates aside, the year brought former Challenge Tour regular Branden Grace – who just missed out on graduation in 2011, finishing 24th in the Rankings – to the fore in some style following his promotion through the 2011 Qualifying School.

The South African stormed to four victories on The European Tour including two in a row on home soil in the Joberg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in January, before his crowning glory came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.

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