The Allianz Challenge de France gives Joaquín Estévez the chance to reclaim the Number One spot in the Challenge Tour Rankings from South African Michiel Bothma, who deposed the Argentine after winning the Barclays Kenya Open.
Estévez finished in a tie for 16th place in Kenya to continue his impressive early-season form, having captured his maiden Challenge Tour title in spectacular fashion at the Abierto Internacional Copa Antioquia, which was co-sanctioned with the Tour de las Americas (TLA).
The 26 year old, who turned professional in 2008, came close to doubling his tally of TLA titles at last week's Abierto del Centro 2011 in his homeland, where he closed with a round of 66 to finish level with Héctor Céspedes on five under par, only to be edged out by the Paraguayan in the subsequent play-off.
But from this week Estévez, who was born in the city of Bahía Blanca near the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, will focus fully on the Challenge Tour, starting with the €150,000 Allianz Challenge de France from May 5-8.
As part of his preparations, Estévez will make the by-now familiar journey to his girlfriend’s place in Barcelona, which he will use as his base as he goes in search of achieving his “dream” – securing a berth on The European Tour.
Estévez said: “I surprised myself a little with my victory in Colombia – to make four birdies at the end of a tournament and then win the play-off with another birdie was just unbelievable. I was so happy, and to be able to celebrate with my friends and family, plus my manager who was caddying for me that week, was very special.
“My life has changed so much in the last few weeks – it’s incredible. At the start of the year I was getting ready to play a season on the Tour de las Americas, and now I’m playing all over Europe on the Challenge Tour. So I’m really happy, because this was my dream from when I first started to play golf. I haven’t spent too much time in Europe, so I’m very excited about it.”
If he achieves his dream, Estévez will become the latest product to emerge from the conveyor belt of South American golfing talent.
Last year, former TLA players Mark Tullo of Chile and Argentina’s Julio Zapata both graduated to The European Tour after finishing ninth and 11th respectively in the final Challenge Tour Rankings.
Estévez is currently second behind Bothma in the Rankings with earnings of €28,839, but is only too aware that he cannot allow his standards to slip if he is to secure a place in the all-important top 20 come the end of the season.
Perhaps understandably, despite the stellar start he has made to the campaign Estévez admits that he is still finding his feet on the Challenge Tour, but his integration has undoubtedly been helped by the sight of so many familiar faces.
He said: “I know Daniel Vancsik very well – we stayed in the same hotel in Kenya. Tano Goya is also a close friend of mine, so we speak to one another a lot. He’s given me some help and advice on what to expect on the Challenge Tour this season. Of course I would love to do what he did two years ago and win some tournaments and get onto The European Tour – that is my dream. But I know it will be very difficult and I will have to work very hard, because there are now so many good players on the Challenge Tour. But I really hope I can do it – making it to The European Tour would be fantastic.”