Tuesday, 31 October 2000
The curtain falls this week on another successful Challenge Tour season when the climax of nine months of sweat and toil will be reflected in the 2nd Cuba Challenge Tour Grand Final in Cuba.

The 2000 Challenge Tour, which began with the Challenge de España at Badajoz in February, reaches its final destination at Varadero Golf Club, located on the Hiracos Peninsula some 140 kilometres from the capital Havana. Here, the leading players will contest the final event with the top 15 earning their cards for the main Tour next year.

The 2nd Cuba Challenge Tour Grand Final represents three contests in one. There is the tournament itself with a prize fund of $128,000 (150,000 euro or £88,000), the race for the No.1 spot on the Rankings, and the battle to secure the 15 cards on the main Tour for next year.

The tussle for top spot is an intriguing situation. Sweden's Henrik Stenson leads by just over 3,000 euro from David Higgins from Ireland, while third placed Spaniard Carlos Rodiles is a further 10,000 euro behind. With 26,000 euro (£15,000) available to the winner of the tournament, victory for either of the trio could see them seal top spot.

The fight for the top 15 places is even more unpredictable. The leading 11 players have probably secured their cards, but the other four spots are still in dispute.

A year ago, Stephen Scahill from New Zealand won the tournament and leapt from outside the top 15 into fifth place on the Rankings while others were relegated. The same could happen again with several players from 16th position and below ready to seize their chance of promotion.
Those waiting to pounce include Scotland's Graham Rankin (16th), Simon Hurd and Kenneth Ferrie from England (17th and 18th), Welshmen Garry Houston and Mark Pilkington (19th and 20th), Alvaro Salto from Spain (21st), and Sweden's Fredrik Andersson (22nd), winner of the last tournament, Le Touquet Challenge de France.

Over the past nine months the Challenge Tour has visited 15 different countries for 25 tournaments. The 2nd Cuba Challenge Tour Grand Final will be the 26th and Cuba will take the country tally to 16.

The 6,269 metre (6,856 yard) Varadero course is the first par 72, 18-hole course in Cuba. It was designed by Canadian Les Furber, who was 'schooled' alongside Robert Trent Jones. The present course, which cost US$10 million and replaced the nine-hole layout built in 1930, occupies a seaside site with the holes being a mix of parkland and links.

So everything is set for what promises to be a fitting finale to the Challenge Tour year. The Grand Final won't be just an end-of-season soirée in the sunshine. It is a serious climax with everything to play for.

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