For the first time in a decade the European Challenge Tour will visit the Czech Republic this week for the Ypsilon Golf Challenge by Alex Cejka, where Scotland’s George Murray and Alexandre Rocha of Brazil will bid to bounce back after coming agonisingly close to securing victories last weekend.
The omens are good for Murray – who missed out in the Vodafone Challenge in Germany by just one shot – as the last player to win a Challenge Tour event in the Czech Republic was a Scotsman, Stephen Gallacher capturing the inaugural KB Golf Challenge in 1998.
Similarly, despite losing out in a play-off in the Trophée du Golf Club de Genève – the second Challenge Tour event to be played last week – Rocha at least consoled himself with a healthy cheque which saw him move to 11th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings, currently headed by England’s David Horsey.
Horsey is himself bidding to make history by becoming the first player to gain automatic promotion to The European Tour by capturing three Challenge Tour titles in the same season and will continue that bid in Liberec, one of 16 winners from the 2008 Challenge Tour season who will be vying for the lion’s share of the €180,000 prize fund.
However, two players whose recent form suggests they could prove a danger to the Englishman are Michael McGeady of Ireland and Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm who contested a play-off in the recent SWALEC Wales Challenge before the Irishman won at the second extra hole.
Set against the backdrop of the Fojtka Dam, the Ypsilon Golf Resort – designed by Englishman Keith Preston – was voted Golf Course of the Year in 2006 by Czech Golf Digest.
As part of a three year agreement, the tournament will be staged there until at least 2010 and four-time European Tour winner Cejka admitted he was proud to give his support to the event.
“This will mean a lot for professional golf in the Czech Republic,” said Cejka, who was born in the country but fled as a refugee aged nine. He travelled with his father to Yugoslavia, Italy and Switzerland before settling in Munich, but now divides his time between Las Vegas and Prague, where he still owns a home.
“It has been ten years since the Challenge Tour came to the Czech Republic, and this tournament gives young Czech professionals a great chance to make a name for themselves and perhaps progress onto The European Tour. I wish all the players well, and look forward to some low scoring by some of the finest young golfers in the world.”