As proved by Andreas Hartø’s stunning victory in last year’s event, the ECCO Tour Championship presented by Thomas Björn and Mercedes Benz has provided a successful springboard for young up-and-coming Danish golfers and this year is no exception.
ECCO have been loyal sponsors of the European Challenge Tour event for the past six years and the top 20 players on the satellite ECCO tour’s rankings gained qualification to play this week at Lübker Golf Resort.Thorbjørn Olesen is the most recent success story to develop through the ECCO Tour before moving through the Challenge Tour ranks and onto The European Tour.
Olesen won twice on the ECCO Tour, in 2008 and 2009, before finishing third in the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2010, helped by his win in last year’s The Princess in Sweden, to earn a card for The European Tour.
The 21 year old is currently the leading contender for The 2011 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year title after an incredible debut season on The European Tour, which included second place finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Championship,the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi and the Alstom Open de France.
Hartø’s impact on the Challenge Tour was instantaneous after he won last year’s ECCO Tour Championship in Germany as an amateur on his Challenge Tour debut before turning professional and earning a second win at the Roma Golf Open 2010 Presented by REZZA.
He then qualified for The 2011 European Tour through Qualifying School and both his and Olesen’s rise to join Europe’s elite is the template for the young Danish players competing in this week’s ECCO Tour Championship presented by Thomas Björn and Mercedes Benz.
There are a stream of talented young Danes following in their tracks, including Morten Ørum Madsen, Lucas Bjerregaard and Joachim B Hansen, who all played in the silver medal winning Danish team at the World Amateur Team Championships in Argentina last year.
Madsen, who won on the ECCO Tour event at Lübker just two weeks ago, Bjerregaard, who claimed the 2010 European Amateur title and Hansen are all competing this week.“It is a good test for us to educate players to become full professionals,” said the promoter of the ECCO Tour Championship presented by Thomas Björn and Mercedes Benz, Flemming Astrup.
“I think you see that 99 times out of 100 the long term main players on The European Tour, like Martin Kaymer, Edoardo Molinari and Olesen, come through the Challenge Tour.
“The Qualifying School can be a bit of a lottery but I think coming through tours like the ECCO Tour and the Challenge Tour is the best way to become a solid professional.“The whole concept for us is to educate players and help develop them.
“Young players don’t have to travel too far from home so it’s a comfortable environment for them and if they play well and finish in the top 10 of the ECCO Tour rankings, then they are ready to move on to the next level, which is the Challenge Tour.”
The venue for this week’s event, Lübker Golf Resort, has been universally popular with the players and with the added boost of an appearance from tournament host and Danish legend Thomas Björn, who flew straight from the US PGA Championship in Atlanta to attend, it has been a hugely successful week.“It has been a great boost for ECCO to present this tournament with European Challenge Tour, especially on such a beautiful course.
“And, of course, to have someone like Thomas Björn, who has a great love for the Challenge Tour, get behind this event, it gives us an even bigger profile and really helps in the promotion of the event.“I think, all in all, it has been a win-win for everyone involved,” he concluded.