Grand Final hopefuls chase key to the Tour

10/22/2012 1:27:13 PM
Andrew Johnston (Valeriy Vorobiev)
Andrew Johnston (Valeriy Vorobiev)
They say it is not over until the fat lady sings, and as she begins to clear her throat on Italy’s South-East coast this week there will be a number of players at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final harbouring dreams of a last-gasp leap into the top 21 of the Challenge Tour Rankings.

While many eyes will be on the battle for the Number One spot this week, one of the most intriguing subplots of the Challenge Tour’s finale is always that of the glory and heartbreak in the chase for the 20 European Tour cards on offer.

With Magnus A Carlsson having secured a European Tour card via The Race to Dubai, the 21st spot in the Challenge Tour Rankings now provides the final entry place to European golf’s top table.

There is always at least one player who emerges from the pack and with a high finish at San Domenico Golf sneaks inside the cut-off point to claim entry to the big time at the 11th hour.

Last year, Andrew Johnston provided a fairy-tale story by finishing tied third behind Tommy Fleetwood and Andrea Pavan to climb from 27th to 15th in the Rankings and grab a card for The 2012 Race to Dubai.

Swede Pelle Edberg’s fifth place finish elevated him from 26th to 18th, while Sam Walker moved up six places in the Rankings from 22nd after coming tied sixth in the season-ending event.

The Challenge Tour’s top ten players at the season’s end are rewarded with a better category for the following year’s Race to Dubai, and a late climb into that section is a huge boost.

Matt Haines had a dream end to his season in 2010 when he stormed to victory at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final and moved from 18th in the Rankings to second, thereby improving his playing opportunities for his debut European Tour season.

Daniel Gaunt, who finished runner-up in 2010 after a final day battle with Haines, also crept into the top ten of the Rankings while Lorenzo Gagli’s tied third finish moved him from outside the top 20 to 17th.

Perhaps the most impressive final charge was from Andrew Tampion in 2009, whose runner-up finish at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final lifted him from 39th place – just inside the top 45 who qualify for the tournament – to 15th, sealing a rookie season on The European Tour for the Melbourne man.