This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the Challenge Tour Grand Final — a tournament unlike any other, where the top 15 players on the Rankings secure the life changing step up the European Tour.
Here, we take a look back at the rich golfing history of this pressure-packed tournament.
The Grand Final was established in 1995 and originally played, in fact, in Portugal, where Spain’s Francis Valera claimed a one-stroke victory to secure his graduation, while defeating a strong field of future European Tour winners, including triumphant 2018 European Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjørn.
Bjørn’s campaign that year on the Challenge Tour was surely a sign of things to come, as the eventual 15-time European Tour winner finished in a tie for eighth at Quinta do Peru to secure his place at the graduation ceremony.
Not just about winning
The Grand Final is truly unique in that it is not always about the winner, but rather, about an elite field of potential stars able to realise their dream, if they can manage four solid rounds under the intense and jarring pressure.
Last year, Scott Fernandez did just that. Starting the week outside the top 15, the Spaniard needed a strong showing to pass those ahead of him in the Rankings. He did not end up winning the Grand Final, but rounds of 69-69-68-70 were good enough for a share of third place, which earned him just enough points to secure one of the last European Tour cards.
With less than 10,000 points separating 15th and 19th on this year’s Road to Ras Al Khaimah, it is safe to say there will be intense moments ahead.
You might recognise the name of the Grand Final winner from 2000. Henrik Stenson finished on 18 under par at Varadero Golf Club in Cuba, to claim his third win in a Challenge Tour campaign that resembles a highlight reel.
The Swede was red-hot when he arrived at the season-ending tournament, looking to polish off a campaign that featured two wins, two second place finishes, two tied thirds and two other top five showings.
He also arrived in Varadero with unfinished business. A year earlier, the future Open Champion had carded rounds of 70-70-69-70 for an agonising tied second place finish — failing to earn full playing privileges on the European Tour as a result.
Stenson got his revenge, breaking 70 in every round on his way to the winners’ circle – and has since blossomed into one of the world’s leading players.
Stenson beat his fellow future Major Champion Trevor Immelman at the 2000 Grand Final in Cuba, but they are not the only Major winners to have came through the final event.
Brooks Koepka played the tournament in 2012, his first season on Europe’s top developmental tour, where he failed to graduate to the European Tour. The American wouldn’t have to wait long though — he secured his card by winning three times the next year.
Former World Number One Martin Kaymer played the 2006 Grand Final in Italy. The German put together an impressive season that year, his eight starts were highlighted by two wins, a second, two third place finishes and a tied fourth, which went with his tied 13th place showing at the Grand Final to secure his spot on the European Tour for 2007.