One of the eye-catching additions to the Challenge Tour schedule for 2017, announced on Monday (see here), was a return to Portugal for the Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort, a dual-ranking event with the European Tour.
The tournament’s status as a dual-ranking event means that points won that week will count towards both the Race to Dubai and the Road to Oman, with the field made up of both European Tour and Challenge Tour players.
Carrying a significant prize fund of €500,000, it is sure to be an early season highlight, and one man looking forward to a week in the Algarve at the start of May is 2015 Road to Oman winner Ricardo Gouveia.
The 25 year old won twice during his record-breaking Challenge Tour campaign before acquitting himself well last season after stepping up to the European Tour, with top ten finishes in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters – one year ago this week – the Made in Denmark and the Nedbank Golf Challenge taking him to 54th place in the Race to Dubai.
Having started his season with a creditable tie for 23rd at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Gouveia was excited to learn that his national open would form part of the 2017 Road to Oman.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “It’s very important for Portugal, for the Portuguese golfers who are having a bit of a struggle to get invites and have the opportunities to play on the Challenge Tour or the European Tour, so to have this tournament on home soil is great for Portugal.
“I will definitely be playing. I always like to give back to my country, to the Portuguese federation, to the PGA of Portugal – they were all really helpful when I was growing up and in getting me to the professional ranks, and I like to play in front of home crowds.”
The Challenge Tour has not had a tournament in Portugal since the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI in 2015 – which was also a dual-ranking event, won by Finland’s Roope Kakko.
Gouveia carried great form into that week, having finished first and second in his previous events, but could only manage a tie for 25th spot in front of his home fans.
However, 2015 was an undeniably momentous year for the Portuguese, with ten top ten finishes supplemented by two victories, including his triumph at the season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final which secured his Rankings hot spot and took him to €251,592 won for the year – a Challenge Tour record.
It is still early days in his European Tour career, but Gouveia is quick to acknowledge the role the Challenge Tour played in preparing him for life at the very top of the golfing world.
“The Challenge Tour was very important for me,” he said. “I had just come back from college in America and it was a great stepping stone to then playing on the European Tour.“I want to wish all the Challenge Tour players a great season for 2017 – have a good one.”