Among those most eagerly looking forward to the start of the new Challenge Tour season at the Barclays Kenya Open will be the new graduates from the four satellite tours, who will be hoping to continue their rise through the ranks and secure European Tour promotion at the conclusion of the 2016 Road to Oman.
The 20 graduates – five from each of the Alps Tour, EuroPro Tour, Nordic Golf League and ProGolf Tour – will play a full season on the Challenge Tour, many of them for the first time, and here’s a handful to keep an eye on as 2016 progresses:
Philipp Mejow – ProGolf Tour
The German edged out his rivals in a tight race with a second place finish in the Castanea Resort Pro Golf Tour Championship to top the 2015 Order of Merit.
The 28 year old won twice, the Gut Bissenmoor Classic and the Red Sea Ain Sokhna Classic, to top the rankings before going on to take victory at the European Tour Qualifying School’s Second Stage at Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, so he will not be overawed by taking the step up to the Challenge Tour.
Other graduates: Teemu Bakker, Martin Keskari, Robin Kind, Benjamin Rusch
Jordan Smith – EuroPro Tour
The Englishman took top honours on the EuroPro Tour in dramatic fashion by winning the Matchroom Sport Tour Championship following a four-hole play-off.
The 23 year old also won the PDC Open as well as sampling a taste of life on the Challenge Tour by playing in five events, his best finish being a tie for 12th at the KPMG Trophy.
Other graduates: Marcus Armitage, Sam Connor, Aaron Rai, Darren Wright
Tapio Pulkkanen – Nordic Golf League
The Finn will be a familiar face in Challenge Tour circles, having been a member in 2013 and 2014 before dropping back down to the Nordic Golf League last year.
The 25 year old is now back where he belongs having shown his class in the 2015 season by winning five times to top the Nordic Golf League Rankings.
Other graduates: Eric Blom, Simon Forsstrom, Kristian K Johannessen, Eirik Tage Johansen
Darius van Driel – Alps Tour
So often the bridesmaid, the Dutchman ended a run of five runner-up finishes by taking a maiden victory at the Open International de Marcilly.
Such a strong and consistent season, plus an overdue piece of silverware, meant that the 26 year old took top spot in the Alps Tour Rankings come the end of the year and he will now relish testing himself against the Challenge Tour’s finest.
Other graduates: Harry Casey, Andrea Maestroni, Damien Perrier, Jurrian Van Der Vaart