By Neil Ahern, europeantour.com
Every single one of the last eight Kazakhstan Open champions has gone on to graduate for The European Tour the same year, so there were no doubt a few jangling bones as the sun rose on Nurtau Golf Club ahead of the final day of the 2013 edition.
Ever since Stephen Browne took the title in the inaugural Kazakhstan Open in 2005, the victors of this prestigious event have achieved what every Challenge Tour player dreams of and made the big step up.
Make no bones about it, this lucrative tournament is consistently one of the coveted titles on the Challenge Tour schedule and this week’s ninth edition is no different.
Out in front going into the grand finale in Almaty is Johan Carlsson, inspired this week by his compatriot and 2000 Challenge Tour graduate Henrik Stenson – whose success story both sides of the Atlantic continues to blossom.
The 27 year old Swede, somewhat late to the professional golf party having studied Communications at San Diego State, is communicating all the signals of a man at peace with his position at the top and is dreaming of another graduation – this time to the top league in European golf.
Two more players chasing a maiden Challenge Tour title trailed behind the Gothenburg man by two shots, young Englishman Tyrrell Hatton and Scotsman Duncan Stewart, who has the advantage of having won already in his professional career.
Another hot young prospect, Spain’s Adrian Otaegui, is a shot further back and, with a season on The European Tour already behind him at the age of 20, he will surely fancy his chances of overhauling the three shot deficit.
A European Tour winner in Jeppe Huldahl and a former World Amateur Number One in the shape of Scott Arnold will need to produce some magic to close the gap and compete come the back nine, but in this event – as we have seen so many times before – anything can happen…
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