Our man on the ground at Stensballegaard Golf takes you behind the scenes of the ECCO Tour Championship hosted by Thomas Björn & Mercedes-Benz…
As suggested by the tournament title, this week a large number of the field will be provided by the ECCO Tour, the Danish domestic Tour which, together with its equivalents in neighbouring Sweden, Finland and Norway, makes up the Nordic League. This week, a number of the Tour’s leading lights will be hoping to shine and big things in particular are expected of young Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, who arrives in Horsens on the back of his second victory of the campaign at last week’s Isaberg Open hosted by Patrick Sjöland. It was Bjerregaard’s seventh top three finish from 13 appearances in a remarkable season in which he has finished outside the top 12 on just one occasion. With half the season still remaining, Bjerregaard has virtually wrapped up the top spot on the Nordic League Order of Merit and, with close to €45,000 in earnings, is guaranteed a full card on the Challenge Tour next season. Unfortunately for him, this week’s tournament will not count towards the Order of Merit but, should he continue his rich vein of form, he will almost certainly break the €61,167 earnings record set by Sweden’s Jens Dantorp last year.
Trophy in the palm of his hand
Another player to look out for this week is Dantorp’s fellow Swede David Palm, who has course form at Stensballegaard Golf having won the Bravo Tours Open here on the ECCO Tour in June. Palm could even afford the luxury of a double bogey on the final hole to win the tournament by one shot from Bjerregaard and so claim his debut professional title. It kept the Bravo Tours Open title in Swedish hands, following Dantorp’s victory last year, when he discovered golf’s Holy Grail with a round of 59 on the opening day.
Thomas and Thobjørn come to town
Denmark’s most successful golfer will make a welcome appearance in Horsens this week when Thomas Björn presents the winner with his trophy following the conclusion of the tournament on Saturday night. Björn, who topped the Challenge Tour Rankings after winning three times in 1995, will also receive an award from the Danish sportswriters, who made him their sportsman of the year in 2011 following a superb season on The European Tour which yielded a trio of titles. Björn’s natural successor, Thorbjørn Olesen, is also due in town on Friday, when he will be passing on his expertise to the next generation of Danish golfers in a kinds’ clinic before attending a press conference. Having graduated from the Nordic League in 2009 to The European Tour via the Challenge Tour in 2010, Olesen will serve as an inspiration to the young Danish hopefuls trying to follow in his spikemarks this week.
Beauty is a beast
Despite only opening some three years ago, this week’s venue, Stensballegaard Golf, has already developed a reputation as one of Denmark’s must-play courses. With the Horsens Fjord shimmering in the background and some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, the linksy layout in the Jutland region of Denmark is very easy on the eye. But be warned: with two of the par fives measuring over 600 yards in length and the shortest par three coming in at 192 yards, and with penal rough lining the fairways, it will be no easy ride for the Challenge Tour’s finest this week. This beauty is also a bit of a beast.A brief history of Horsens
The town of Horsens used to be best known for its vast prison, but since the building was converted to a concert venue in 2006, it has become more synonymous with throwing big bashes by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Madonna and Metallica, all of whom have played gigs here in recent years. The town also boasts a pretty handy football team, who reached the Danish Cup final last year and also finished fourth in the league to qualify for the Europa League.