This week marks the start of the big money events on the Challenge Tour, the time when players can secure their Tour cards with a couple of solid performances.
The first of the Challenge Tour ‘majors’ starts on Thursday in Germany with the Günther Hamburg Classics at the Hamburg Golf and Country Club Treudelberg.
This is the fore-runner to the Charles Church European Challenge Tour Championship at Bowood in England, the BMW Russian Open in Moscow, the Talma Finnish Challenge in Helsinki, and the double badge North West of Ireland Open.
All these tournaments represent considerable prize money in Challenge Tour terms starting this week with 280,000 euro, approximately £175,000, in Hamburg.
Understandably, with so much at stake, the Günther Hamburg Classics has attracted the strongest field seen for a Challenge Tour event this year with all this season’s 12 winners plus several of last year’s champions.
The starting line-up also includes several players who have featured regularly on the main Tour this season, such as Nicolas Colsaerts, and Greame Storm.
Home fans will be keeping their fingers crossed for the group of young Germans, who have been making their presence felt on the Challenge Tour this year. Wolfgang Huget, Kariem Baraka, Tino Schuster, Felix Lubenau, Marcel Siem, and Stephan Wittkop have all featured at some stage with Huget claiming his maiden title in the Galeria Kaufhof Pokal Challenge a few weeks ago.
Just behind was Schuster while Siem tied for third. The 22-year-old Baraka, nephew of Bernhard Langer, shot a sensational final round of 62 to take second place in the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open in Ascona in May. He will start with an advantage over the rest of the 156-strong field because he won the Günther Cup at Treudelburg in April.
Last year, when the tournament was staged at Auf der Wendlohe near Hamburg, Ireland’s David Higgins completed the second of his three victories in a play off against Carlos Rodiles from Spain. The pair had tied on 18 under par 270, but Higgins took the title with a birdie at the first extra hole.
His prize of 38,962 euro (£24,402) took him to the top of the Rankings, while he eventually finished second to Henrik Stenson of Sweden. This year’s winner will collect 46,660 euro, so anyone currently in the top 30 could virtually secure his card with victory at Treudelburg.
The Hamburg Classics is the brainchild of Klaus P Günther, whose Hamburg media and publishing company, Gunther Gruppe, dedicates itself to golf. He says: “I hope that young German golfers will take advantage of the opportunity the tournament gives them to succeed against tough international competition.”
The company publishes the German/English lifestyle magazine, Golf and Emotions, which describes the most beautiful golf courses in the world. Then there is Günther Personal Consultancy, which places golf personnel in golf clubs throughout Europe. The company TopGolf Marketing not only puts on the Gunther Hamburg Classics, but also manages up-and-coming German golfers, such as Denis Prössel.
Another area that is near and dear to Herr Gunther’s heart is youth and school golf. “I want to make this sport especially attractive to children,” he says. “To this end, I've developed the golf figure Timber Tee and his friends. Through games and entertainment, the six to 14-year-olds should be able to discover the charms of this game, which is not at all elite. We are also putting on a series of junior tournaments, namely the Timber-Tee Cup, the first of which was played on May 27 at the Buxtehude Golf Club.
“At our junior golf website www.timber-tee.com, we can keep youngsters up to date on everything worth knowing about golf. We've also put together our own merchandising and licensing program for junior golf.”