The European Challenge Tour returns to Finland this week for the SK Golf Challenge, a tournament that represents a wonderful opportunity for Finland’s most promising players to make a huge leap towards The European Tour.
The last time the Challenge Tour visited Finland, a young amateur player by the name of Roope Kakko stormed to victory to make huge advances in his career. Kakko turned professional immediately after his putt to win the 2004 Volvo Finnish Open dropped and he instantly became a Category One Member of the Challenge Tour.
Now well established on the Challenge Tour and hoping to join Mikko Ilonen on The European Tour, Kakko is the perfect example to Finland’s aspiring amateur and professional players competing at the St Laurence Golf this week.
Among them is one of Finalnd’s most highly regarded young players, Joonas Granberg, who recently followed Ilonen and Kakko into the professional ranks and will be hoping to make an immediate impact on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
Other Finns on form include Jaako Makitalo and the big hitting Tuomas Tuovinen, both of whom have valuable Challenge Tour experience and are performing well on the Satellite Nordic League.
Tuovinen’s strength and power will certainly be an advantage at St Laurence Golf’s second hole, one of the longest par fours in the world, measuring a staggering 513 yards, or 469 metres.
While that may seem an overlong par four, the players will find a subtle dog-leg that requires cut-corner drive to leave a three or four iron approach to the green.
Finland’s return to The Challenge Tour schedule further strengthens ties in the region. The SK Golf Challenge is the first Challenge Tour event to be played in the country since 2004 and will be the first event in a three year agreement with promoters SK Festivals Oy.
Finland hosted one of the first events on the Challenge Tour in its inaugural season of 1989 and the Volvo Finnish Open continued for 16 years until 2004. For six of those years there were in fact two Challenge Tour events in the season with the Finnish Masters from 1998-2000 preceding the Talma Finnish Challenge from 2001-2003.
Those bound for the most northerly stop of the season will be treated to one of the finest venues in Finland. St. Laurence Golf, located at Lohja, 50 kilometres west of the capital, Helsinki, was opened in 1990. The course is located on the grounds of the old Gunnarla Mansion and boasts two championship courses, Kalkki-Petteri (old course) and Pyhä Lauri (new course) along with a new six-hole practice course.