The European Challenge Tour salutes one of its most successful graduates this week at the Thomas Björn Open presented by Multidata at Esbjerg Golfklub, a tournament that would not have been possible without the backing of Denmark’s most successful golfer.
Björn is the embodiment of the Challenge Tour’s true purpose, a player who began his career on the Challenge Tour, went on to win the Rankings in 1995 before becoming a European Tour champion and playing a pivotal role in two European Ryder Cup victories.
The 34 year old took the decision to give something back to the tour that launched his career when he discovered that this week’s tournament was having difficulty finding sponsorship and was in danger of falling through.
But, by supporting the event both financially and in name, Björn has ensured that Denmark would remain on the Challenge Tour Schedule – something the 2005 Daily Telegraph Dunlop Masters champion felt passionately about.
“It was important for me that we have some Challenge Tour tournaments in Denmark,” said Björn. “I remember a time when there were four and now we were struggling to have one and I just said ‘let’s make sure it happens’, so that young Danish kids would have the chance to play in some tournaments that they have the chance to move on from.
“I won the Rankings in 1995 and won four events that year, which was great. There are a lot of good players on the Challenge Tour and they learn quickly. It is also a good place for players who lose their Tour cards, because they can go and rediscover themselves on the Challenge Tour which I think is important as well.
“For me the Challenge Tour was a good learning experience. The strange thing about the Challenge Tour is that you don’t really want to be playing there because all the guys on the Challenge Tour want to be playing on The European Tour. But for young players it is a great stepping stone and it’s great to have that because it prepares them better for stepping up to The European Tour.
“It’s not the same standard but it is the fact that you have tournaments to play on a weekly basis and you have an Order of Merit that counts for something and all the things that come with playing on a tour. It is so important because when you get to the top level you know that have to do well over the course of the whole season and the Challenge Tour guys generally d0o quite well when they step up.
“I decided to get involved because I had a desire to do that. I have always spoken to Alain de Soultrait about the fact there was a possibility that I could get involved and this year they had difficulty finding the sponsorship in Denmark so it was important that I went in and backed it because we were able to find sponsors on the strength of that.”
Last year’s event at the highly demanding Esbjerg Golfklub – the Nykredit Danish Open – was won by England’s Matthew Morris, who led the tournament from day one and triumphed by three strokes from Englishman Simon Dyson.