Friday, 27 September 2013
The 2013 story so far, featuring (l-r) François Calmels, Andrea Pavan, Brooks Koepka and Daan Huizing  (EuropeanTour)
The 2013 story so far, featuring (l-r) François Calmels, Andrea Pavan, Brooks Koepka and Daan Huizing (EuropeanTour)
By Neil Ahern, europeantour.com

Crunch time is nearly upon us on the European Challenge Tour, with just two huge events remaining before the dramatic climax in Dubai. Here, we look back over the great and good of the 2013 campaign so far and look forward to the excitement that is yet to come…

Brilliant Brooks 

Brooks Koepka looked like a star in the making from the off on the Challenge Tour, making his debut at the Swiss Challenge in 2012 on an invite before claiming a victory in just his eighth start to claim his place in that year’s Challenge Tour Grand Final in Italy.

While the Floridian could not do enough to secure his European Tour card that time around, he was quite clearly enraptured by the Challenge Tour voyage which took him around the world to so many new places and cultures.

He returned in 2013 like a man on a mission and the ambitious and talented 23 year old had claimed three victories by June to make history by earning the quickest promotion to The European Tour with regard to the calendar year.

He hit the ground running in the Race to Dubai, marking his first appearance as a European Tour Member with a tied 12th finish at the prestigious Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and confirming his status as one of the hottest up and coming prospects on The European Tour. 

Despite not playing a single event on the Challenge Tour since his promotion in June, Koepka still held firm at the top of the Rankings until last week’s Kazakhstan Open, when he was overthrown by…

Pavan the man

Andrea Pavan’s top ten finish at the Kazakhstan Open moved him to the illustrious position of Challenge Tour Number One, deposing Koepka from his position at the summit for the first time since May.

The Italian finished in second place in the Rankings in his maiden season in 2011, thanks in part to a victory at the Challenge Tour Grand Final over his home course Apulia San Domenico, and after dropping back following his rookie season on The European Tour, he has proven his prodigious talent once again this year.

The 24 year old began his return to the Challenge Tour with some very consistent form, missing just one cut in his first 13 events.

His big breakthrough of the year came in his 14th appearance, courtesy of a one-shot victory over compatriot Marco Crespi at the Bad Griesbach Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort. He went on to win the Open Blue Green Côtes d'Armor Bretagne by a four-shot margin before a top five at the Kharkov Superior Cup, followed by a tied seventh finish at the Kazakhstan Open, moved him to the top of the Challenge Tour Rankings.

It looks only a matter of time before the Roman begins to flourish in the top tier but for now, he is totally focussed on the process of making that step-up, maybe even before the Challenge Tour season concludes, as he remains one of the Challenge Tour’s three…

Treble-chasers

Alongside Pavan, both François Calmels and Daan Huizing are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Koepka and wrap up their third victory of the season in the three final events, earning automatic promotion to The European Tour in the process.

Frenchman Calmels has been waiting a long time since claiming two victories before the midway point of the season, his first coming in just his second appearance of the year at April’s Challenge de Madrid and his second arriving at the D+D Real Czech Challenge Open in May.

While his form has remained consistent, with a tied 15th place finish at the lucrative Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open presented by Neuflize OBC followed by three top tens, that elusive treble has remained out of reach, but he will be hoping to capitalise on that form in the final three weeks of the 2013 campaign and claim a third win. Another man showing the form of a treble-winner is…

Daan the dominant

Dutchman Huizing’s rise through the Challenge Tour Rankings has been breath-taking ever since he arrived on the scene with a tied runner-up finish on an invite at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda in June.

He followed that up with three top fives in his next four events before his incredible form culminated in a stunning September, winning his maiden professional title with a play-off victory over 2008 Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson in the Northern Ireland Open Challenge Presented By Clannah and XJET and following that up with a second title in as many appearances at the Kharkov Superior Cup in Ukraine.

While the 22 year old could not create history by making it three in a row at the Kazakhstan Open, he is already virtually guaranteed of a place on The 2014 Race to Dubai and he will no doubt be eyeing a suitably spectacular end to his brief stint on the Challenge Tour in…

The Final Three

All of the Challenge Tour’s top stars will have three weeks to rest, refocus and reload before the crucial three final events of the season, where the 15 graduates to The European Tour will ultimately be decided after a long and dramatic season.

First up is The Foshan Open which, in its inaugural year, is co-sanctioned by the China Golf Association and will comprise 63 players from the Challenge Tour and 63 from the host nation, with sponsors’ invitations making up the remainder of the 126-man field.

The top 30 from the Challenge Tour Rankings all qualify automatically while the remaining entries will come from the regular category list, marking the beginning of an intense battle for the 15 European Tour cards on offer at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

The following week, the Challenge Tour makes a step into new territories with the inaugural National Bank of Oman Classic at the stunning Almouj Golf, The Wave in Muscat.

The 114-strong field will be made up of the top 30 in the Challenge Tour Rankings while the remaining players will come from the category list, leaving the door wide open for players to break through and make the 45-man cut-off for the crucial, season-ending…

Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club

It is one of the great season finales in European golf and for the first time, the Challenge Tour’s famous Grand Final takes place at the stunning Al Badia Golf Club in the heart of Dubai Festival City, a world-class waterfront lifestyle resort in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and luxurious cities - a location fitting of such a spectacular golfing event.

As ever, the finale will feature the top 45 in the Challenge Tour Rankings as they battle it out for the 15 European Tour cards on offer, a high-stakes affair which never fails to produce drama.

Virtually everybody teeing it up on the week has a chance of making a late dash into the reckoning for a dream promotion, as emphasised by Englishman James Busby, who last year was the last man into the tournament at 45th in the Rankings. A stunning birdie blitz on the back nine in Italy earned him a tied second place finish and earned him an incredible promotion to the big time at the eleventh hour.

Henrik Stenson, meanwhile, is one of the many stars to have carved their name on the Grand Final Trophy, a win which earned him the lofty title of Challenge Tour Number One in 2000. The Swede’s rise to the highest echelons of world golf only serves to prove just what can be achieved for every one of those stars present at the Grand Final and it is sure to be an occasion worthy of such heady ambitions.

This Challenge Tour season has produced drama, action and superstars aplenty, but we assure you, the best is yet to come…


 

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