The Challenge Tour was established in 1989 with one fundamental ambition which has resonated and strengthened every year since its inception – a desire to develop the next generation of great golfers.
Originally known as the Satellite Tour, the concept was brought to the table by some of the most passionate and ambitious visionaries in European golf at the time.In 1986, the professional bodies in France, Italy and Sweden had opened their professional tournaments to foreign players, before forming the Satellite Tour PTC Sub Committee along with representatives from Germany and The European Tour two years later.
From that meeting came the Challenge Tour Rankings and a category system which would see the progression of players to The European Tour via the second tier.The results were instant. Neal Briggs won the very first event on the newly-formed tour and finished top of the 1989 Rankings on the way to becoming an established European Tour player.
That same year an ambitious and charming Italian by the name of Costantino Rocca also graduated to The European Tour, later becoming one of the greatest players his country ever produced.In 1990, the PGA European Satellite Tour became the PGA European Challenge Tour and the rapid success of the tour was encapsulated by the prize money on offer during the season – a total of £1.4 million.
By 1993, the European Challenge Tour was visiting 17 countries in a season as it began to take on another role.The tour was now seen as a stage for less prominent golfing nations to showcase their country’s finest golf courses, while simultaneously giving their professionals the opportunity to make a major career breakthrough. By 1994, fields were comprised of 60% Challenge Tour members and 40% Nationals and Invitations.
During the 1990s, the Challenge Tour began to spread its wings as Russia, Poland, Slovenia and Turkey all hosted tournaments for the first time; before long Europe’s top young players were travelling as far afield as South America, the Far East and Africa to compete for larger and larger prize funds.The ever-increasing purses reached a peak in 2010, when the Kazakhstan Open broke its own record for a regular Challenge Tour event with a prize fund of €450,000.
Meanwhile, the success of Challenge Tour players was becoming ever more apparent. Michael Campbell became the first former member to win a Major with his famous victory at the 2005 US Open Championship, and his feat was later emulated by Trevor Immelman (the 2008 Masters Tournament), Louis Oosthuizen (The 2010 Open Championship) and Martin Kaymer (the 2010 US PGA Championship), who in 2011 became the first graduate to top the Official World Golf Ranking.
While 25 years has passed since the birth of the Challenge Tour, its membership gets younger and younger, and in 2011 Tommy Fleetwood became the youngest Rankings winner at the age of 20 years and 290 days.
With every passing year, the Challenge Tour gets stronger, breaking new ground across the globe and, most importantly, developing the next generation of world-class golfers.
1988 – Satellite Tour PTC Sub Committee administers guidelines for new tour.
1989 – First meeting involving The PGA European Tour. Neal Briggs wins very first Rankings.
1990 – Renamed the European Challenge Tour.
1994 – Fields amended to include 40% National players and Invitations.
1995 – Thomas Björn wins the Rankings with a record total of £46,500.
1997 – 48 Challenge Tour events played in 21 countries, with prize money totalling £2.3 million.
1999 – Challenge Tour Grand Final played in Cuba for the first time.
2000 – World Ranking Points to include top ten finishers in Challenge Tour events.
2001 – Introduction of first television series solely dedicated to the Challenge Tour.
2004 – Winner of three Challenge Tour events in one season gains automatic promotion to The European Tour.
2005 – Michael Campbell becomes the first former Challenge Tour player to win a Major with his US Open Championship triumph.
2006 – Adrien Mörk cards the first official 59 on any of the three Tours at the Tikida Hotels Agadir Moroccan Classic, despite a double bogey.
2009 – Edoardo Molinari breaks the record for earnings in a Challenge Tour season, winning the Rankings with €242,979.
2011 – Martin Kaymer becomes the first Challenge Tour graduate to reach World Number One.
2011 – Tommy Fleetwood becomes youngest Challenge Tour Number One at 20 years and 290 days.
See all of our other 25 year anniversary features below: