The European Challenge Tour enters the home straight this week with only four events left for players to secure a European Tour card, starting with this week’s ALLIANZ Golf Open du Grand Toulouse.
There’s plenty at stake and if further incentive is needed, then potential graduates need look no further than last year’s champion John Parry of England, who has progressed from victory 12 months ago at Golf de Toulouse-Seilh to Challenge Tour graduate and now The European Tour’s most recent champion.
Parry won the ALLIANZ Golf Open du Grand Toulouse last year to win the title by two and secure his maiden professional title. The former Walker Cup player, a teammate of Rory McIlory, started the final day four shots off the lead but a flawless eight under par round of 63 – the lowest of his career – gave him victory, two shots ahead of Portugal’s José-Filipe Lima. The win contributed to Parry finishing 14th in the Challenge Tour Rankings in his maiden season to earn a place on The European Tour for 2010.
Now he has joined the list of Challenge Tour graduates who have become European Tour Champions after winning the Vivendi Cup by two strokes a fortnight ago at Golf du Joyenval on the outskirts of Paris. Parry was the fourth Challenge Tour graduate from 2009 to win on The European Tour, following Rhys Davies (Trophee Hassan II), James Morrison (Madeira Islands Open BPI – Portugal) and Edoardo Molinari (Barclays Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship).
The ALLIANZ Golf Open du Grand Toulouse has been played since 2003 with former champions including BMW PGA Championship winner Scott Drummond, the inaugural winner, and his fellow Scotsman Richie Ramsay, whose victory in 2008 helped him graduate to The European Tour. Like Parry, Ramsay underlined his credentials by winning the South African Open Championship at the start of The 2010 Race to Dubai.
Now another cast of potential champions are gathered at the stunning Golf de Toulouse-Seilh just outside the historic city in south-west France for an event under the sponsorship of ALLIANZ for the second year.
It’s the fourth ALLIANZ sponsored event of the Challenge Tour season with England’s Sam Walker (ALLIANZ Open Cotes d’Armor Bretagne), Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (ALLIANZ Golf Open de Lyon) and French Amateur Romain Wattel (Allianz Europen Strasbourg Golf de la Wantzenau) winning the previous three.
All the leading contenders are in action this week, headed by Spain’s Alvaro Velasco, the leader of the Challenge Tour Rankings who is chasing his third title of the season. Behind him, Swede Oscar Floren and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen are almost neck and neck in a tussle for second place with England’s Robert Dinwiddie fourth.
A top ten place on the Rankings is also important and Marius Thorp of Norway, a former Junior Ryder Cup player, will be looking to consolidate his position as will England’s Lee Slattery right on the bubble in 20th place.
With only this week’s ALLIANZ Golf Open du Grand Toulouse, the Roma Golf Federation Cup and the Egyptian Open before the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, the Challenge Tour is building to a thrilling climax.