A part of the Challenge Tour’s charm is the blend of young prospects blossoming into world class players, and seasoned professionals showing up the next generation with their calmness and savvy.
The oldest graduate in the Class of 2018, Stuart Manley was a mainstay at the top of leaderboards all season long, competing as hard as any player on Europe’s top developmental circuit with his trademark tenacity.
After a strong start in his opening four events, which included a top ten at the Turkish Airlines Challenge, the 39 year old turned up the heat on the young guns.
Starting with a third place finish at the Andalucía – Costa del Sol Match Play 9, the Welshman began a run of four consecutive top tens, earmarked by consecutive play-off appearances.
At the KPMG Trophy, Manley took a two shot lead into the final round after an insane opening of 64-65-65. Despite a final round 68, he was caught by two others, and went into a three-way play-off, which was won on the first hole by Pedro Figueiredo who converted his birdie putt.
A crushing defeat of that sort might derail a lesser player, but the very next week at the Hauts de France Golf Open, Manley was right back at it, and once again found himself in a play-off for the win, this time against Grant Forrest — 14 years his junior. The Aberdare resident held his nerve and sealed victory on the third extra hole, which furthered his position at the top of the Rankings.
With wind in his sails, Manley recorded two more top fives — a tied second in Northern Ireland and a tied fourth at the Cordon Golf Open — before closing out the season as the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Number Nine.
After losing his European Tour card in 2017, Manley is now back on the big stage, armed with a new trophy on his mantle and a fresh shot of confidence after defeating, on several occasions, the young guns tipped for future success.