With just two events remaining before the San Domenico Apulia Grand Final the European Challenge Tour season is at its most crucial stage, with the battle for the 20 available European Tour cards moving from Kazakhstan to France for this week’s Open de Toulouse.
While the top ten players on the Rankings look to be in a safe position, the remaining ten spots are very much up for grabs – and the €18,400 top prize on offer to the best player at the Golf de Palmola could play a huge part in ensuring one of the players in the top 30 can finish off the season with the sense of ultimate achievement.
There is also the chance for those players further back on the Rankings to emulate last week’s winner of the Kazakhstan Open, Ireland’s Stephen Browne, and reignite their season with a victory at this all important time of the Challenge Tour year.
Browne, still celebrating his historical win at the Nurtau Golf Club in Almaty, is walking, swinging proof of what a Challenge Tour victory can do to re-invigorate a player’s season.
The 31 year old Dubliner is now 22nd on the Challenge Tour Rankings, having started the week in 110th place, and now has a great opportunity to retain his playing rights for The European Tour which he won at the Final Stage of the 2004 Qualifying School.
“It is amazing what that one week can do for you,” Browne agreed. “My win in Kazakhstan was that bit extra special because of the €40,000 first prize that has shot me up the Rankings, but whoever wins in Toulouse, for example, will still give their year shot in the arm – especially if they are close to the top 20.”
The 2004 Open de Toulouse saw Zimbabwe’s Marc Cayeux became only the second double winner of the 2004 season at the Open de Toulouse with a tense sudden-death play-off victory over Scotland’s David Drysdale that secured him a European Tour Card for 2005.
Drysdale used his play-off defeat as the springboard to go one better at the Challenge Tour Grand Final just weeks later, where he secured the first place he needed, after a nail biting play-off with Mattias Eliasson of Sweden, to move from 43rd place on the Rankings to 12th, and win his card as one of the Challenge Tour’s top 15.