Friday, 19 March 2010
Challenge of Ireland  (Getty Images)
Challenge of Ireland (Getty Images)

Fresh from their maiden Challenge Tour victories of the season, Sweden’s Klas Eriksson and Scotland’s Richie Ramsay both return to competitive action in this week’s ECCO Tour Championship in Denmark.

In the case of Ramsay, who triumphed at the Vodafone Challenge a fortnight ago, it was the first Challenge Tour title of his career, giving the Scot renewed belief that a place on next season’s European Tour is within his grasp.

Ramsay’s victory saw him realise the potential he had showed when winning US Amateur Championship two years ago and, perhaps more importantly, his cheque for €22,400 moved him to 14th place on the Challenge Tour Rankings.

With the top 20 players at the end of the season guaranteed playing privileges on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule, a strong showing this week at Kokkedal Golf Club in Copenhagen would considerably enhance Ramsay’s prospects of playing at the elite level.

Joining Ramsay in pursuit of the €28,800 first prize is Eriksson, who ended a seven year barren spell with his victory in the Trophée du Golf Club de Genève.

Eriksson’s triumph at the fourth extra hole, following an incredible final round of 63, moved the Swede to fifth place in the Rankings with earnings of €65,190.

One of the players he defeated in that play-off, Wil Besseling of The Netherlands, also returns to Challenge Tour duty after sampling a brief taste of life on The European Tour at the KLM Open in his homeland last week.

One more victory for Besseling, who currently lies fourth in the Rankings behind the English duo of Seve Benson and David Horsey and Italy’s Alessandro Tadini would almost certainly see the Dutchman competing on The European Tour on a more regular basis next season.

Two places beneath Besseling in sixth is Jeppe Huldahl, who will carry the home nation’s hopes along with his compatriot Anders Schmidt Hansen when the pair tee up at Kokkedal. By his own admission Hansen has endured a disappointing season, but the Dane is aiming to put on a good show for the home fans.

He said: “I’m always excited about playing in my own country. I live about three hours away from Copenhagen, but hopefully I can persuade some friends and family to come along and watch. I finished 23rd when the tournament was played in Odense last year, so hopefully this time I can go even higher.

“I’d hoped for a bit more this season, but there’s still some big events to come, so a lot can still happen. It’d be nice to get the ball rolling this week. You only need a couple of good results on the Challenge Tour, and you’re up where you want to be.

“You only have to look at Jeppe [Huldahl] to see that. He had a great win in Norway, and climbed into the top ten in the Rankings on the back of it. I was so pleased for him, because I’ve known him for a few years now from our time playing amateur golf together, and we’re room-mates when we’re on Tour. He’s got a great chance of getting onto The European Tour next year, and he deserves to, because he’s played really well this season.”  

Huldahl and Hansen are both bidding to become the first home winner of the event since its inception in 2006. Last year’s tournament was won by England’s Iain Pyman, the most prolific winner in Challenge Tour history, who survived a final day charge by his fellow countryman John Morgan and Magnus A Carlsson to take the title.

Morgan is again in this year’s field, aiming to regain his place in the top 20 of the Rankings with just eight events of the season left.

Another man in need of a strong showing after slipping down the Rankings in recent weeks is Estanislao Goya of Argentina, who earlier this year received the first ever ECCO Performance Award presented by Colin Montgomerie.

The youngster was awarded €10,000 by sponsors ECCO in recognition of his outstanding early season performances, which included victory at the 77 Abierto VISA del Centro presentado por Personal in his native Argentina.

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