By Mathieu Wood
With a new year upon us, we have picked out five European Challenge Tour graduates from the Class of 2023 to watch on the DP World Tour in 2024.
Since its inception in 1986, the Challenge Tour has produced 213 different players who have gone on to win on the DP World Tour.
Among those are four members of the 2022 alumni, with Matt Baldwin, Tom McKibbin, Daniel Hillier and Todd Clements all landing silverware on last year’s Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.
And hopes are high that the Challenge Tour’s reputation as a rich source of talent will be further enhanced this year.
As Alex Fitzpatrick had already secured his DP World Tour card via performances on the Race to Dubai, 21 players emerged from the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca to earn their playing privileges for the 2023-24 season.
Here, we profile five Challenge Tour graduates from last year’s cohort looking to impress at the top table as they make the step up to the DP World Tour.
- Age: 25
- 2023 Road to Mallorca ranking: 1
- Official World Golf Ranking: 304
Where else to start than with last year’s Road to Mallorca Rankings winner?
Marco Penge enjoyed an excellent finish on the Challenge Tour last season, winning twice in the final five events of the campaign.
After his breakthrough victory in the Open de Portugal at Royal Óbidos, he went on to win the season-ending Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A and become the 13th Challenge Tour Number One to hail from England.
It capped a memorable year for Penge, who in 2021 underwent knee surgery and subsequently was away from competitive action for seven months.
In addition to his two wins on the Challenge Tour last season, the 25-year-old qualified for The Open Championship for the second year in a row last summer.
Since his promotion to the DP World Tour, the fast-swinging Penge has displayed his potential with two top-15 finishes in his first three starts of the season and is ranked first for driving distance.
After a missed cut at the season-opening Joburg Open, he ended the year with a tie for fourth at Leopard Creek in the Alfred Dunhill Championship with a tie for 12th at the Investec South African Championship sandwiched between.
Ahead of his Rolex Series debut later this month at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, Penge appears to be fulfilling on the promise he showed in his amateur days which included winning the Scottish Amateur stroke play title at 17.
- Age: 20
- 2023 Road to Mallorca ranking: 2
- Official World Golf Ranking: 288
The South African is another exciting prospect who has made quick progress in his development since he turned professional in August 2022.
Casey Jarvis was a winner on the Challenge Tour last season as the 20-year-old finished second on the Road to Mallorca, the youngest of all 21 players to earn their DP World Tour card.
Having impressed with a top ten finish at the Joburg Open, a DP World Tour event co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour, he went on to record four top fives on the Sunshine Tour in addition to his victory at the Euram Bank Open in Austria.
Jarvis rose to a career-high 237th on the Official World Golf Ranking following his maiden victory as a professional in July.
Since his promotion to the DP World Tour, he has made the cut in all four of his appearances on the 2024 Race to Dubai.
Jarvis was just one off the lead at the halfway stage of the Investec South African Open Championship but struggled over the weekend and finished outside the top 50.
Yet, despite that disappointment he recovered to challenge once again on home soil as he ended the week in a tie for seventh at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
After ending the Opening Swing 25th on the Race to Dubai, Jarvis will hope to continue his encouraging start to life as a full DP World Tour member during the upcoming International Swing which features three events in Africa.
- Age: 27
- 2023 Road to Mallorca ranking: 5
- Official World Golf Ranking: 282
Despite only making his first appearance of the 2023 Challenge Tour season in May, Svensson comfortably secured his full playing privileges on the DP World Tour for the first time.
After impressing on the Nordic League earlier in the year, the Swede wasted little time in making an impression on the Road to Mallorca as he won a maiden Challenge Tour title at the B-NL Challenge Tour in the Netherlands.
With the victory, he secured his full playing rights on the Challenge Tour for the remainder of the season and catapulted into the top 20 on the season-long rankings.
From there he didn't look back and remained firmly ensconced at the top end of the standings through to the campaign's finish.
He narrowly missed out on a further triumph as he later finished runner-up on three occasions, including twice in September.
He brought his excellent end-of-season form on the Challenge Tour into life on the DP World Tour, finishing in a share of second place behind winner Dean Burmester at the Investec South African Open Champion.
As a result, and despite a missed a cut the following week at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, he starts 2024 as the highest-ranked Challenge Tour graduate on the Race to Dubai.
During his amateur career, he represented Sweden alongside future DP World Tour winner and Ryder Cup winner Ludvig Åberg.
- Age: 30
- 2023 Road to Mallorca ranking: 9
- Official World Golf Ranking: 351
While the first three players we have just profiled hold full playing rights on the DP World Tour for the first time, Matteo Manassero isn't short of top level experience.
Victory at the Castelló Masters Costa Azahar in 2010 as a 17-year-old saw him become the youngest winner on the DP World Tour, a record he still holds to date.
In each of the next three seasons, he won three more DP World Tour titles, including a memorable victory at the 2013 BMW PGA Championship which catapulted him into the world’s top 30.
But in the years that followed, he would drop from a high of 25th to outside the top 1,800 on the Official World Golf Ranking before winning the Toscana Alps Open on the Alps Tour in 2020.
With two victories on the Challenge Tour last year, Manassero was arguably the most eye-catching storyline to emerge on the Road to Mallorca.
The Italian recorded wins in Denmark and on home soil and will now hope to continue his winning touch back on the stage where he emerged to worldwide prominence.
At 16, he became the youngest winner of the British Amateur Championship in 2009 before taking the silver medal for low amateur at The Open Championship later that same year.
Back on the DP World Tour for the first time in five years, golf fans from around the world will be intrigued to follow how he fares as he continues to plot his rise back among the top echelons of the game.
🏆 Two wins on the Challenge Tour— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) November 6, 2023
📈 9th on the Road to Mallorca
🙌 Returns to the DP World Tour
😍 A season to remember
Matteo Manassero will have a full Tour card for the first time since 2018. pic.twitter.com/tLbtXeOpke
- Age: 30
- 2023 Road to Mallorca ranking: 19
- Official World Golf Ranking: 504
Like Manassero, Brandon Stone is a player who doesn’t need much introduction.
The South African is a three-time winner on the DP World Tour, peaking with his win at the Scottish Open in 2018.
That very week, Stone produced a closing 60 at Gullane Golf Club to win Scotland’s national open and lift his first Rolex Series title.
After earning promotion to the DP World Tour from the Challenge Tour in 2015, Stone finished in the top 20 of the DP World Tour Race to Dubai Rankings on two occasions.
But by the end of the 2022 season, when he lost his full DP World Tour playing rights, he was playing in his own words “utter garbage” and resolved to come back stronger.
That is exactly what he did as he spent the entire 2023 season inside the top 20 on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, registering six top ten finishes including a season-best second place in the B-NL Challenge Trophy in May.
After missing his first three cuts of the new DP World Tour season, Stone closed out 2024 with a tie for 40th in Mauritius and will hope to put together a strong run of form in the coming weeks.
No stranger to the big stage, it is hard to imagine it won't be long before he is soon challenging for more silverware.