After a month-long break the European Challenge Tour returns to action with the Kenya Open, the longest-running tournament on the 2010 Schedule.
The €190,000 event was first played in 1967 but joined the Challenge Tour in 1991, since when it has been won by the likes of Argentine duo Ricardo Gonzalez and Daniel Vancsik and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber – all of whom subsequently became European Tour champions.
But the most high profile winner of the event, which this year returns to Muthaiga Golf Club in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi for the 35th time, was South African Trevor Immelman, whose victory in 2000 preceded his Masters Tournament triumph by eight years.
More recently Italy’s Edoardo Molinari, who won the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in partnership with younger brother Francesco last year and broke the Challenge Tour record for winnings in a season, took the title in 2007.
Those looking to add their name to an illustrious roll call of champions include England’s Oliver Fisher, who will be making his Challenge Tour debut.
Fisher made history in 2005 when, aged 16 years and 334 days, he became the youngest member of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, before earning his European Tour card as an amateur at the 2006 Qualifying School.
After a promising first two years on Tour the youngster from Essex struggled for consistency last season, but if he is seeking some inspiration as he bids to bounce back at the first time of asking, he need look no further than the example set last year by Molinari.
Fisher’s fellow Englishman Iain Pyman, who won the 2008 Kenya Open, will be bidding to capture his ninth Challenge Tour title when he tackles Muthaiga Golf Club’s recently-renovated 7,141-yard, par 71 course.
Pyman is joined in the field by another former champion in the shape of Lee James, who is tied for fifth place in the All Time Winners List alongside, amongst others, Sweden’s Klas Eriksson.
Both men will be seeking their sixth Challenge Tour titles in Nairobi, whilst at the other end of the experience spectrum the likes of Englishman Charlie Ford, Walker Cup player Niall Kearney of Ireland and rising star Thorbjørn Olesen of Denmark – all of whom narrowly missed out on graduation to The European Tour at last year’s Qualifying School Final Stage – are in the hunt for their maiden victories.
As well as showcasing some stars of the future the Kenya Open will also feature a number of players hoping to revive their careers on the Challenge Tour, including the English trio of Benn Barham, Robert Dinwiddie and Simon Wakefield, plus Scotland’s Callum Macauley – who posted a number of impressive rounds on The European Tour last season – and Taco Remkes of The Netherlands, winner of three titles en route to finishing third in the 2008 Rankings.