Tuesday, 27 March 2001
The Challenge Tour resumes this week on the European mainland with the Segura Viudas Challenge de España at Villamartin on the Costa Blanca in Spain.

Having set the ball rolling with the opening two tournaments of the 2001 schedule in the heat of Africa, the Segura Viudas Challenge de España signals the start of the campaign in Europe that will take in 16 countries over the next seven months.

After a fortnight break since Zambia, a field of 144 will line-up at Villamartin and none will be keener to get back to action than Ashley Roestoff and Mark Foster. South African Roestoff won the Tusker Kenya Open in Nairobi at the start of the month, while Foster, the former double English champion, triumphed in the Stanbic Zambia Open in Lusaka.

The pair, who presently fill the top two places on the Challenge Tour rankings, are among nine current Challenge Tour titleholders in Villamartin including defending champion Eric Carlberg.

The young Swede completed his first professional victory in six years this time last year when the won the Challenge de España at Badajoz.

Carlberg made his presence felt from the start. He carded an opening 64 and even a closing 72 for 17 under par 271 saw him finish five strokes clear of Spain's Carlos Rodiles with another Spaniard, Francis Valera third on 277.

The victory gave his season a great start but Carlberg did not manage to build on that and finish in the top 15 at the end of the season to secure his card to the main Tour. He eventually finished 28th, the second successive year he had missed out.

This week's field also includes England's Andrew Sherborne, beaten by Roestoff in a play-off in Kenya, and South African-based Scot Alan McLean, who finished joint 12th in Nairobi after making the early running, then was disqualified in Zambia for an incorrect drop.

Ireland's Gary Murphy, Iain Pyman, twice a Challenge Tour winner from England, and Denmark's Knud Storgaard, another ex-champion, all of whom lost their Tour cards last year, further boost the field.

There is also a large Spanish contingent including Valera, Fernando Roca, Ivo Giner, and Raul Ballesteros, nephew of Severiano, while among the amateurs competing is Italy's Stefano Reale, younger brother of Michele Reale, now back on the main Tour.

The Villamartin course is approaching its 30th birthday having been designed by Paul Putman and opened in 1972. While not long at 6,132m with a par of 72, the layout has character and positional play is vital.

Villamartin has successfully hosted many events over the past 30 years, the most notable being the Turespaña Mediterranean Open in 1994 on the main tour, won by José Maria Olazábal at the second play-off hole against Ireland's Paul McGinley.

Segura Viudas, the tournament title sponsor, is a pioneering company in the world of sparkling wine (Cava) with a premium range of products.

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