The final full-field event of the season has arrived on the Road to Mallorca and we bring you up to speed on the happenings this week.
The last three winners of the Stone Irish Challenge have all gone on to play the European Tour the following season. Bernd Ritthammer picked up his second win of the 2016 season en route to finishing as Challenge Tour Number Two, behind Rankings winner Jordan Smith.
The next year, Julien Gurrier triumphed on the Emerald Isle in a season that saw him finish sixth in the Rankings, while last year, former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson lifted his second trophy of the season in a return to form which propelled him to a strong season on the European Tour this year.
Last chance for China
As of October 7, the leading 53 players from the Road to Mallorca top 80 are eligible to compete in the big-money Hainan and Foshan Opens. There is, however, one last chance to qualify for the two events, which are key to earning a spot in the Challenge Tour Grand Final. The winner of the Stone Irish Challenge will gain direct entry to the two China events worth a combined $850,000 USD.
Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy
Each year at the Stone Irish Challenge, Irish golfing legend Christy O’Connor Jnr is honoured as a trophy bearing his name is awarded to the leading Irish player in the field. Last year, Conor O’Rourke won the title and this year, competition for the prize will be hotly contested a host of Irish players tee it up at Headfort New. Currently, Cormac Sharvin, who sits in eighth place, leads all Irish players on the Road to Mallorca Rankings but there will be a considerable charge from Ruaidhri McGee, who won the trophy in 2017 and Robin Dawson, who was second only to Sharvin amongst Irish golfers at Lahinch in this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The Stone Irish Challenge once again furthers the connection with O’Connor Jnr as it is contested on a course designed by the iconic golfer—Headfort New—which was opened in 2000. This follows on from the two most recent host venues, Mount Wolseley and Concra Wood, which were also designed by O’Connor Jnr, ensuring a connection between the generations of elite Irish golfers.
While the players at the top of the Road to Mallorca Rankings will be battling for a European Tour card over the final four events, there is a different battle that will come to an end at the Stone Irish Challenge – the battle to keep a Challenge Tour card. With only the highest ranked players moving on to China and the Grand Final, the week at Headfort will determine who the top 70 players to keep their card will be.