Jean-Francois Remesy, French Golf’s National Open Champion, headlines the field for the tenth anniversary edition of the Aa St Omer Open this week as The European Tour and the Challenge Tour join forces for the only dual ranking tournament on The 2006 International Schedule.
Remesy has, over the past two years, written himself in French golfing folklore. Thirty-five years after France last celebrated a home winner of the Open de France, the 42 year old delighted the home crowd in 2005 with a magnificent seven stroke victory over the Australian left-handers Richard Green and Nick O’Hern at Le Golf National in 2004.
The victory was made all the sweeter as Jean Garaialde, the last Frenchman to win the oldest of the continental Opens in 1969, was in attendance at the prize presentation to hand over the trophy, declaring that there is no bigger tournament outside the Majors for a Frenchman to win.
If that was not good enough, Remesy repeated the feat last season when he successfully defended the title after a thrilling duel with compatriot Jean Van de Velde, emerging victorious after the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
For those reasons, Remesy will be the star attraction, as well as one of the hot favourites to win this week at the Aa St Omer Golf Club, but he will meet some stiff competition, especially from the likes of defending champion Joakim Bäckström.
Bäckström secured his maiden Tour win in St Omer last season, defeating Englishman Paul Dwyer at the first play-off hole to win the much sought after one year exemption to The European Tour on offer to the winner of the trophy.
Bäckström is the perfect illustration of the kind of champion the dual ranking events between The European and Challenge Tour look to produce.
The dual ranking tournaments were conceived to give players like Bäckström the opportunity to test themselves at a higher level, against some of Europe’s most experienced players. Those who pass that test earn the right to take their place on The European Tour, and many of them will be looking to follow that lead this week.