With just three events remaining on the 2006 European Challenge Tour Schedule, the €300,000 Kazakhstan Open – the richest single Challenge Tour event in history – will almost certainly hand the champion a passport to The 2007 European Tour.
With a first prize of €48,000 on offer, whoever is lucky enough to win at the Nurtau Golf Club on the outskirts of Almaty can move into the top 20 of the Challenge Tour Rankings. If any of the players already in the upper echelons secures the top prize, they will put themselves in a wonderful position to finish the year as Challenge Tour Number One.
Ireland’s Stephen Browne is the perfect example of how important the Kazakhstan Open is to the Challenge Tour season. Browne wrote his own piece of golfing history in the former Eastern bloc 12 months ago when he became the event’s first winner.
By triumphing at Nurtau, Browne rejuvenated a season that had seen him struggle on The European Tour while trying to bed in some swing changes.
There was no evidence of indifferent golf in Kazakhstan, however, as he compiled four sub 70 rounds to secure the second Challenge Tour win of his career and leap from 110th place to 22nd on the Rankings.
From there, Browne finished the season in 20th spot and qualified for The 2006 European Tour.
“It’s going to be an even bigger event than last year because the prize money is so high,” commented Browne, looking ahead to this week’s event. “Whoever wins in Kazakhstan will have a great chance to get their card for The European Tour and that is a huge incentive for everyone in the field.
“I have such fond memories of Kazakhstan. I certainly remember winning the tournament, but I was also struck by how nice the people were there and I thought they ran a great event, especially when you consider they had never hosted a tournament like that one.
“The course was a good test of golf in very good conditions. It was an honour to be the first winner of an international golf tournament in Kazakhstan and if it wasn’t for the Kazakhstan Open I would not be a European Tour player this season.”
Browne’s victory was a fitting climax to an event that had taken months of meticulous planning.
Between them, the European Challenge Tour, the Kazakhstan Golf Federation, the Government of Kazakhstan and tournament promoters Parallel Media Group shared a vision to bring top level golf to Kazakhstan, and the result was a memorable event not just for the fantastic golf that was displayed over the four days, but also for the spirit and camaraderie in which it was played.
Together, the organising bodies behind the 2005 Kazakhstan Open put the country on the global golfing map. One year on, Kazakhstan is eager to show the world the further progress that has been made.
|2||WEBSTER, Shaun P||ENG||18||-14|
|T3||ARRUTI, Jesus Maria||ESP||18||-12|