The European Challenge Tour arrives in Belgium this week for the KPMG Trophy, which runs from August 29 – September 1 at Millennium Golf in Paal, Belgium. Here is what you need to know before the action gets under way this Thursday.
Full field back in action
The KPMG Trophy will assemble a full-field of 156 professionals in a return to the familiar 72-hole format, which was last seen at the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge a month ago. It has been an exciting run of different-look formats for the Challenge Tour over the past three weeks, with the two-cut Made in Denmark Challenge presented by FREJA, a European-first at the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, Presented by Modest! Golf Management and last week’s limited-field Rolex Trophy.
One compelling storyline to follow this week will be the progress of rising Belgian star Adem Wahbi. The 20-year-old, who was born with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, is 11th in the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD). A proven winner on the European Disabled Golf Association, he will tee it up for the first time in the KPMG Trophy and is sure to garner tremendous support from the home crowds. Earlier this year, he penned a Player Blog Presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car ahead of his exhibition match at the Belgian Knockout.
Millennium Golf, a new host-venue for the KPMG Trophy, is quite a fitting name as the next generation of global golf superstars — the majority of whom come from the ‘millennial generation’— take to the 6,797-yard Belgian layout, where Ryder Cup star and Belgium’s most-recent European Tour winner Thomas Pieters is a member. Some of the young talent in the field includes 18-year-old Minkyu Kim, 21-year-old Dominic Foos and 24-year-old Connor Syme, all of whom have lifted trophies on the Challenge Tour.
This year will mark the first time the KPMG Trophy has been played in August. The long-running tournament has been traditionally played in either May or June, but with a new spot on the schedule, the tournament takes on increased significance as the end-of-season deadline to secure one of the coveted 15 European Tour cards approaches. A big week in Belgium could prove to be crucial down the stretch.
Last year’s KPMG Trophy went to a rare three-way play-off between Pedro Figueiredo, Stuart Manley and Anton Karlsson. It was Figueiredo who triumphed with a birdie on the first extra hole, but ultimately all three players had the last laugh as they all achieved their dream of advancing to the European Tour.
Manley shook off the play-off defeat to win the very next week, also in a play-off, while Karlsson earned his European Tour card through Qualifying School at the end of 2018. As for Fiegueiredo, his KPMG Trophy win proved to be absolutely vital. Every single Rankings point the Portuguese player earned was needed, as he birdied the final hole of the season—the 72nd hole of the Challenge Tour Grand Final—to slip past Tom Murray and move into 15th in the season’s final Rankings.