The influence of the Challenge Tour on The Ryder Cup has never been as prevalent as it was during last year’s ‘Miracle at Medinah’ - from Nicolas Colsaerts’ superb debut performance to Ian Poulter’s Saturday heroics to Martin Kaymer’s victorious putt.
Five of José María Olazábal’s Medinah heroes came through the Challenge Tour system, namely Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Kaymer, Poulter and Justin Rose. It is a growing trend.Peter Baker, Joakim Haeggman and Costantino Rocca became the first three alumni to appear in the world’s most famous team golf event in 1993 and since then, every Ryder Cup has featured at least one former Challenge Tour star.
The 2012 Ryder Cup could be seen as a culmination of that progress. Each day, a former Challenge Tour player provided the spark which made the incredible victory at Medinah possible.Colsaerts stole the headlines despite a disappointing Friday for Europe, with a rip-roaring performance alongside Lee Westwood in the afternoon fourballs. Poulter lived up to his reputation as ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ on Saturday by providing the turning point for Europe with a superb performance alongside Rory McIlroy in the afternoon fourballs.
Then came the miraculous recovery, with Poulter putting blue on the board yet again before Rose notched a dramatic victory over Phil Mickelson, followed by the pièce de résistance provided by two-time Challenge Tour winner Kaymer.
All five players have praised the Challenge Tour’s influence on their careers. Here is what they had to say about Europe’s top developmental tour:Nicolas Colsaerts
“The Challenge Tour is the best school to understand how to deal with a full season and to understand what makes you tick. It gets you used to being in the last couple of groups on Saturday and Sunday and playing to win tournaments. You also have to be very consistent on the Challenge Tour, which is something that usually pays off in this sport. It is by far the best way to prepare yourself for the big stage.”Peter Hanson
“I was one of those players who kind of went up and down from the Challenge Tour to The European Tour a couple of times before I managed to start playing better on The European Tour. For me, the Challenge Tour was really important because after a bad year on the main Tour it gave me a place to play and to get my game back in good enough shape to win a European Tour card again.“You look at the Challenge Tour now and you see a lot of young, fit and hungry players who are all desperate to succeed and make it to The European Tour. They don’t have any fear when they make it to The European Tour. They are ready and the Challenge Tour should get a lot of credit for preparing these guys so well.”
“The CT was so important for me and for preparing for The European Tour. I had been playing three-round tournaments in Germany and Europe before I came on to the Challenge Tour and there was a big difference. On the Challenge Tour you play four rounds every week, you travel long distances from week to week and that really helps to prepare you for The European Tour. Also there are a lot of really good players on the Challenge Tour, there is a lot depth out there and you are playing against so many good players that you have to play at your best to succeed.”
“The Challenge Tour can be a big, big step for a lot of guys and it certainly makes you realise how much hard work and dedication it takes to get to the top. When you get out there you realise just how many good players there are in Europe and you learn pretty quickly that you have to play well every week to make it out there. It is a great place to learn your trade and I have a lot of great memories of playing there because even though the lads are competing against each other, they are all in it together and trying to help each other out as much as they can.”Justin Rose
“There aren’t many better ways to serve your apprenticeship as a touring professional than going out on the Challenge Tour. It teaches you so much – not just about the game of golf itself, but you also learn a lot about you as a person and how you handle that lifestyle of hotels, airports, hire cars and all that goes with it. That is very important when you are starting your career because a lot of guys don’t realise how tough that life can be. Nowadays the standard on the Challenge Tour is very high too, most of the young guys that arrive on The European Tour from the Challenge Tour are ready to go out there and compete for titles.”To view the records of Challenge Tour alumni in The Ryder Cup, click here.