The 2020 European Challenge Tour season starts this week with the Limpopo Championship getting the Road to Mallorca Rankings started in South Africa.
The tournament marks plenty of historic firsts, including the Challenge Tour’s inaugural visit to South Africa. Ahead of the season-opening tournament, here is the lowdown on all you need to know.
A maiden visit
South Africa will become the 51st country to host a Challenge Tour event when the Limpopo Championship gets under way from January 30- February 2. The tournament previously featured solely on The Sunshine Tour schedule, with homegrown player JC Ritchie clinching the title in 2019. The Limpopo Championship will commence a three-tournament swing through the African nation, which also includes the RAM Cape Town Open and the Dimension Data Pro-Am.
An early start
With the European climate not lending itself to winter golf, the Challenge Tour will swing into action in January, with the Limpopo Championship marking the first of 25 events this season. Following the South Africa swing, the Road to Mallorca will travel through 14 countries before arriving on the Balearic Island for the Challenge Tour Grand Final, where 20 players will earn European Tour cards for 2021, up from 15 graduates last season.
The first event of the season is an opportunity for the new Challenge Tour members to make an early impression.
All four of the respective Order of Merit winners from Europe’s leading satellite tours - Edoardo Lipparelli (Alps Tour), Niklas Nørgaard Møller (Nordic Golf League), Mikael Lundberg (Euro Pro Tour) and Hurly Long (Pro Golf Tour) - are in the field this week. Meanwhile, those who gained their card after making the 72-hole cut at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage will also have their first chance to make an impression.
Co-sanctioned by The Sunshine Tour, the Limpopo Championship will feature 95 players from both the Challenge Tour and the Sunshine Tour, plus 14 invitations. The 204-player field will compete over two venues in Limpopo province, Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate and Koro Creek Bushveld Golf Estate, before the top 60 players and ties progress through to the weekend to contest the title at the Annika Sorenstam-designed Euphoria.
A fast start
Connor Syme, who won the opening event on the 2019 Road to Mallorca, can attest to the importance of a strong start after riding his momentum to secure his European Tour card at end of the season. In fact, the last three winners of the season-opener have gone on to graduate, with Aaron Rai and Lorenzo Gagli earning promotion in 2017 and 2018 respectively. With over ten months to go until the Rankings are decided, there certainly is long way to go, but the Limpopo Championship winner will hope a strong start will pay off come November.