The Challenge Tour Grand Final: a plotted history

9/4/2013 2:54:00 PM
Challenge Tour Grand Final 1999  (EuropeanTour)
Challenge Tour Grand Final 1999 (EuropeanTour)

With the unveiling of the venue for the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club, it seems an opportune moment to take a look back at all the great venues that have staged the season- ending tournament since the first in 1995.

From October 31 to November 3, 2013, Dubai will become the 45th country to stage a Challenge Tour event, and the fifth to host the deciding tournament in the Rankings, after it all got underway in Portugal 18 years ago.

Quinto do Peru, some 30km south of Lisbon, on Portugal’s western coast, held the first two Grand Finals won by Francis Valera and Ian Garbutt, who both went on to make over 400 European Tour appearances between them.

Portugal remained the home of the Grand Final for the following two seasons, 1997 and 1998, albeit in different venues, with Clube de Golfe do Montado and Belas Clube de Campo next up for the great and good of the Challenge Tour.

After four seasons in Portugal the Challenge Tour took a huge leap abroad as it began to expand its wings across the world and it was destination Cuba for two years from 1999. 

Current Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson announced himself to the golfing world in the Caribbean island in 2000 with a victory that saw him top the Challenge Tour Rankings and begin a European Tour career that currently has him sixth in the Official World Golf Rankings and top of The Race to Dubai.

After an Atlantic odyssey for the players the Grand Final then returned to European soil, and to Bordeaux, in France’s south western corner, with Golf du Medoc becoming a home to the event for the following four seasons from 2001.

In this time a number of promising talents claimed victory at the season ending showpiece en route to successful European Tour careers. Richard Bland dominated the first year in Bordeaux, winning by five from Phillip Golding, to finish tenth in that year’s rankings behind the likes of European Tour winners Mark Foster, Jamie Donaldson and Robert-Jan Derksen.

The following year, 2008 Open de España winner Peter Lawrie was the man on top, with his victory in the season’s final event propelling him to fourth on the ranking. He was followed by Jose Manuel Carilles and David Drysdale who both used victory to propel themselves on to The European Tour.

From 2005 San Domenico Golf in southern Italy became home to the Grand Final, and in that time it crowned a number of Challenge Tour Number Ones and saw numerous top talents graduate.

Carl Suneson won the first time around in Italy with a tightly fought one stroke victory over Daniel Vancsik, while the last man to triumph there last year was the impressive Espen Kofstad. Just last week the Norwegian wowed Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley with his impressive form during the opening round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open, en route to a stunning seven under par 65 to lead the tournament.

Over the years the Grand Final has played a key role in launching a number of top talents on to The European Tour, and along the way it has been played on some top quality golf courses that have seen the players travel across the globe.

Dubai is the latest one on the rota for them to savour, and it will be interesting to see how this latest chapter in the history of the season finale influences the careers of the next generation of top golfing talent.