The Aa St Omer Open 2005 will pit some of The European Tour’s most experienced players against the next generation of golfers at the Aa St Omer Golf Club in northern France this week, as The European and Challenge Tours come together for the second dual ranking event of the season.
Former Ryder Cup players Peter Baker of England and Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, and European Tour winner Paul Eales will come up against emerging young players like Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, Roope Kakko of Finland and the English pair of Richard McEvoy and Tom Whitehouse.
Baker and Van de Velde, of course, are also former European Tour winners, the Englishman having won three titles in his career, namely the 1988 Benson and Hedges International Open as well as the Dunhill British Masters and the Scandinavian Masters in 1993 – the year he made his Ryder Cup debut for Europe at The De Vere Belfry.
Van de Velde, meanwhile, who won the 1993 Roma Masters, played in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline Country Club in the USA, the same season he tied for second in The Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Eales is another of the more experienced players in the Aa St Omer Open field. The 41 year old won the 1994 Open de Extremadura, as well as the Challenge Tour’s Audi Open in 1991.
Baker, Eales and Van de Velde are three examples of players who are trying to maintain their high standards against the emerging talents of the European game like Hoey, Kakko, McEvoy and Whitehouse. The quartet are ready to break through to the top level, having amassed some invaluable experience already in their short careers.
Former Walker Cup player Hoey, with three top five Challenge Tour finishes in 2005, is currently tenth on the Rankings, while Kakko (2004 Volvo Finnish Open), McEvoy (2005 Panasonic Panama Open), and Whitehouse (2004 Estoril Challenge Open Portugal Telecom) have all won on the Challenge Tour.
With a prize fund of €400,000, and, perhaps more importantly, a one year exemption to The European Tour for the Aa St Omer Open champion, it promises to be an intriguing week.