The ALLIANZ Golf Tour is doing great things for the development French golfers but strangely it is not a Frenchman at the top of the Order of Merit but a Scot, former European Tour winner Raymond Russell.
Not surprisingly for a Tour dedicated to the improvement of French professionals, the home players dominate the ALLIANZ Golf Tour Order of Merit in terms of numbers but how did this Scot, a fair distance from home, get to lead the way heading into the ALLIANZ Golf Open du Grand Toulouse, the penultimate event of the 2010 ALLIANZ schedule?
Russell, who won the 1996 Air France Cannes Open on The European Tour, was left in a golfing wilderness after losing his European Tour card at the end of 2006. Opportunities were few and far between but an old friend from his amateur days, Jean-Charles Cambon, stepped in.
Russell and Cambon got to know each other when they were representing Scotland and France respectively as juniors; in fact Cambon beat Russell in the British Boys Championship in the late 1980s. They both joined the professional ranks with Russell progressing to The European Tour and Cambon achieving success at home, including winning the French Professional Championship in 1994.
Having hung up his clubs, Cambon turned to tournament promotion and as Associate Director of the France Pro Golf Tour, offered some starts to Russell and he has not looked back.
“I was struggling to play events but then Jean-Charles stepped in and I played a few events here in France,” explained Russell. “I did okay and enjoyed it. It gets you playing and they are well run tournaments. The events were good for me last year and I decided to keep going and play the ALLIANZ Tour and it was through Jean-Charles that I got started over here.”
The ALLIANZ Golf Tour comprises ten events – four on the Challenge Tour which are effectively the season’s majors, four on the Alps Tour and two events counting solely for the ALLIANZ Tour including the grand final, the Allianz Finale de Barbaroux.
Russell has played in five of those events so far, finishing in the top ten four times including joint second in the ALLIANZ Open Côtes d'Armor, and has earned €21,700 to lead Frenchman Victor Riu, whose earnings total €19,984.
Among the benefits for topping the ALLIANZ Order of Merit are a place in the ALSTOM Open de France, a Pro-Am event in Mauritius and a financial bonus.
Russell currently lies 18th on the Challenge Tour Rankings and is striving to finish in the top 20 to return to The European Tour as the season moves towards a climax. Should he achieve that and return to golf’s top table, it is obvious Russell won’t forget those who helped him along the way.