Wednesday, 04 April 2018
Nacho Elvira (pic by Richard Castka) ()
Nacho Elvira (pic by Richard Castka) ()
With Europe's top developmental tour venturing to Kunming Yulongwan Golf Club in Yunnan Province for the first time next week we relive some of the best Chinese European Challenge Tour moments.

2013: Elvira’s maiden win

Nacho Elvira collected his maiden victory on the Challenge Tour in China five years ago.

The Spaniard headed to the Far East with three events of the season to go and needed a strong finish to make the top 15 and qualify for the European Tour. He got the wheels set in motion with a share of ninth at the Kazakhstan Open and continued to impress at the Foshan Open.

The then-26 year old began the tournament with two consecutive rounds of 68 to sit one shot behind joint leaders Tyrrell Hatton and Sam Walker ahead of the weekend’s action. A stunning round of 66 on Moving Day saw Elvira move into pole position for the title as he took a three-shot lead into the final round.

The Madrid man extended his lead with a birdie on the second hole but after a string of pars, and the chasing pack rolling in the birdies, Elvira’s lead was cut to one. With the pressure increasing he bogeyed the 15th to leave a three-way tie as the trio – Elvira, Walker and Shiv Kapur – played the final hole.

Kapur – in the group ahead of Elvira and Walker – found the bunker off the tee and lipped out for par to drop to 13 under par and leave the door open for a shootout between the final duo. The Englishman failed to get up and down from the fringe after a short approach shot, while Elvira faced a 12-foot par putt having raced 50 feet past the hole.

The Spaniard rolled in the putt like a seasoned veteran to climb from 50th to 13th in the Challenge Tour Rankings and claim his maiden Challenge Tour title. 

2014: Palmer goes wire-to-wire

Jason Palmer recorded one of the results of his career when he went wire-to-wire at the Foshan Open to claim the title and secure European Tour graduation via eighth place in the 2014 European Challenge Tour Rankings.

The Englishman shot an opening 65 to co-lead the tournament with Ricardo Gouveia before firing three bogeys amongst six birdies to joint lead with fellow countryman William Harold.

Overnight front-runner Palmer continued to lead after a three under par third round with the chasing pack only one shot behind. He turned up the heat on a muggy final day in China as he fired in four birdies ahead of the final two holes.

A nervy three-putt bogey on the 17th set up a testing final hole, but the Englishman was typically precise with his approach and calmly two-putted to record a fantastic wire-to-wire Challenge Tour victory.

2016: Emotional Armitage triumphs in Foshan

Marcus Armitage claimed his first Challenge Tour trophy in style when he won the Foshan Open two years ago.

The Englishman was five shots back at the start of the weekend to New Zealand’s Ryan Fox. However, Armitage’s accession was outstanding on the third day as he carded a blemish-free seven under par 65 to sit two shots behind leader Alexander Knappe. The round included seven birdies, six in eight holes with four of them on the closing holes.

The final round saw Armitage birdie two of the first three holes and apply the pressure to overnight leader Knappe. The pair battled throughout the day and the man from Huddersfield had a one-shot lead over the German with Knappe needing a birdie on the last to take the tournament into a play-off.

Knappe missed his opportunity and Armitage claimed his maiden Challenge Tour victory to go with his three satellite EuroPro Tour titles.

2017: Li Linqiang the record-breaker

Last year saw Li Linqiang become the youngest player to make the cut on the Challenge Tour.

The Chinese amateur carded 69-75 to make the cut, which included a five-foot clutch putt on the last to make par, and at 13 years 11 months and 11 days old he advanced to the weekend’s action – the youngest player ever to do so.

2017: van Rooyen breaks his duck

Erik van Rooyen took the title at the Hainan Open last season and finally broke his duck.

The South African had recorded five top ten finishes in 2017 and sat in tenth place in the Challenge Tour Rankings ahead of the tournament. In the events leading up to the Hainan Open he finished fourth at the Kazakhstan Open, having led by one going into the final round. But at Sanya Luhuitou Golf Club on Hainan Island he battled it out at the top of leaderboard and came away with victory.

A first round 67 set the tone for the tournament before carding a stunning seven under par second round of 65 to take the halfway lead.

Van Rooyen maintained control and took a two-shot lead into the final round, thanks to five birdies plus an eagle as he holed out from 90 yards on the par four 12th.

The South African held off the challenge of Tapio Pulkkanen, who pipped him to the 2017 Kazakhstan Open trophy weeks before, and birdied the 17th to secure his maiden Challenge Tour title.

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