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Thursday, 11 April 2013
Challenge Tour Grand Slam  (EuropeanTour)
Challenge Tour Grand Slam (EuropeanTour)

As the Masters kicks off in earnest, we profile the four former Challenge Tour players who have gone on to Major success as part of our 25 year anniversary celebrations…

THE CHALLENGE TOUR GRAND SLAM

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell’s victory at the 2005 US Open was not only a breakthrough victory for the New Zealander, it was also a breakthrough victory for the Challenge Tour.

As well as becoming the first Kiwi to win a Major since Bob Charles in 1963 and the first player since 1996 to win the event via the pre-qualification route, he was also the first former Challenge Tour player to claim one of golf’s big four.

Before going on to become a European Tour star, Campbell learned his trade on the Challenge Tour, winning three tournaments in a stunning season in 1994 to qualify for the 1995 European Tour season.

Just a year later, he was being spoken of as one of the top up and coming players in world golf, securing a fifth place finish in The European Tour Order of Merit before going on to claim his first three victories on the big stage in 2000.

The biggest of his eight European Tour victories, of course, came at Pinehurst in 2005 when he overturned a five shot deficit to South African Retief Goosen to claim a famous victory and the man with a proud Maori heritage believes he never could have gone as far as he did without the valuable experience he gained from the Challenge Tour.

“The Challenge Tour was a fantastic experience which helped me understand what to expect on The European Tour.

“It teaches you how to prepare and play 72 hole events. There is no substitute for experience and I felt the Challenge Tour was an excellent training ground which I would recommend to any young professional.”

CHALLENGE TOUR RECORD

Year    Rankings    Played            Prize-Money
1993    0                     4                  0.00
1994    3                     7                  £29,708.00

Trevor Immelman

Trevor Immelman became only the second South African, after his mentor and role model Gary Player, to win the Masters Tournament following a courageous wire-to-wire victory at Augusta National in April 2008.

The four-time European Tour winner’s first professional victory came on the Challenge Tour, at the prestigious Kenya Open in 2000, as he graduated that season thanks to a tenth place finish in the Rankings.

Immelman made a gradual ascent to the top of world golf as he retained his European Tour card for the following two years before claiming his first victory at the 2003 South African Airways Open, a title he successfully defended in 2004 for his second win before claiming a third title later that year in the Deutsche Bank – SAP Open TPC of Europe.

His ‘piece de resistance’ came at Augusta National in 2008 as he soared to a three shot triumph over Tiger Woods, despite a double bogey at the par three 16th hole on the final day.

“I really enjoyed my time on the Challenge Tour,” said Immelman. “When I look back at my career, I think it was the best thing I could have done.

“I made some great friends, learned to compete, and found out how as a professional golfer you need to learn how to travel and adapt to different situations and cultures if you want to be successful. I'm thankful for the opportunity I had.”

CHALLENGE TOUR RECORD

Year    Rankings    Played    Prize-Money
2001    0                    1           €3,808
2000    10                  19         €44,663

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen joined an esteemed list of South Africans to have won The Open Championship – alongside Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Ernie Els - in 2010 when he lifted the Claret Jug at St Andrews thanks to an impressive seven-stroke victory.

His rise to fame in the European professional circuit was slow and steady and began with a season on the Challenge Tour in 2003, when he finished 25th in the Rankings before graduating for the top tier via Qualifying School.

It took Oosthuizen seven years to join the winners’ circle on the European stage but when he finally made the breakthrough at the 2010 Open de Andalucia de Golf, it was the catalyst for something special as just four months later he claimed his first Major victory.

Four wins soon followed as well as a near miss at the 2012 Masters Tournament, when he was beaten in a play-off by Bubba Watson.

“I think it made me a better golfer going through the Challenge Tour,” said Oosthuizen. “My first year on it was a tough one because it was my first away from South Africa but I learned a lot and I’m glad I did it that way.”

CHALLENGE TOUR RECORD

Year    Rankings    Played    Prize-Money
2005    0                   1    
2004    0                   1    
2003    25                 18            €36,383

Martin Kaymer

While Martin Kaymer was the fourth former Challenge Tour player to claim a Major when he beat Bubba Watson in a play-off to win the US PGA Championship in 2010, he made his own little piece of history on February 27, 2011.

The German became the first Challenge Tour alumni to reach the peak in world golf when he topped the Official World Golf Rankings after his runner-up finish at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

It completed a remarkable ascent through the European ranks for the Düsseldorf man, which began in 2006 with a season on the Challenge Tour which was as stunning as it was brief.

Kaymer played eight events, made every cut, finished in the top ten in six of them and won two – the first of which came on his Challenge Tour debut in his home town.

The 28 year old has since gone on to become one of the most famous players in European golf, securing his place in Ryder Cup history when he holed the putt that retained The Ryder Cup in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ victory in 2012.

“I had been playing three round tournaments in Germany and Europe before I came on to the Challenge Tour and there was a big difference,” he said.

“On the Challenge Tour you play four rounds every week, you travel long distances and that really helps to prepare you for The European Tour.

“Also there are a lot of really good players on the Challenge Tour. There is a lot depth out there and you are playing against so many good players that you have to play at your best to do well succeed.”

CHALLENGE TOUR RECORD

Year    Rankings    Played    Prize-Money
2006    4                    8             €93,321
2004    0                    1    
2002    0                    1    

 

Read all of our our previous 25 year celebration articles below:


25 years of the Challenge Tour

Medinah's Challenge Tour influence 

The Italian Maverick Costantino Rocca

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