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The Challenge Tour’s most exclusive club

The Challenge Tour’s most exclusive club

While the most common route to securing a European Tour card is to finish the season inside the all-important top 20 on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, European Challenge Tour players can also earn automatic promotion to Europe’s top tier by winning three tournaments in a single season.

Kim Koivu

Only eight players have achieved the rare feat in the last decade and here we take a look at who has joined the exclusive three-win club over the past ten years.

Kim Koivu

The Finn is the most recent player to achieve a hat-trick, clinching a trio of victories during the 2018 season to secure his European Tour status just eight months after turning professional.

After starting his victory run at the Belt & Road Colorful Yunnan Open, Koivu propelled himself further up the Rankings with a spectacular performance on home soil, defeating fellow graduate Robert MacIntyre in a play-off as he became the first player from Finland to win the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge.

He earned his European Tour playing privileges just two weeks later, winning the historic Rolex Trophy at Golf Club de Geneve with rounds of 62-65-72-67 to complete the coveted trio.

Aaron Rai

Aaron Rai

The Englishman only needed to wait until July to wrap up his European Tour card in 2017, winning his third Challenge Tour title at the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge to make the immediate jump up to the European Tour. The 22-year-old stated his intentions early by winning the opening event on the calendar, the Kenya Open in front of his Kenyan-born mother, who saw him triumph in her first visit to her home country for 47 years.

After taking an early lead on the Rankings he never looked back, making further gains after prevailing at the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 and in France, to seal his promotion and finishing the season sixth on the Rankings.

Bernd Ritthammer

Bernd Ritthammer

Ritthammer may have wrapped up his European Tour card on the same day as his fellow graduates at Challenge Tour Grand Final in in 2016, but he did so in sensation style, winning the season-ending event to earn his third victory of the season.

The triumph in Oman ensured he finished second in the Rankings, after previous wins at the Volopa Irish Challenge and Made in Denmark Challenge – presented by Ejner Hessel. While the German was set to graduate at Grand Final, the win topped a sensational year for the German and ensured he bounced straight back to the European Tour at his first attempt.

Nacho Elvira

Nacho Elvira

The Spaniard also sealed his European Tour card with victory at the Rolex Trophy, following two wins earlier in the 2015 season at the Challenge de Madrid and Kärnten Golf Open, in Austria. Elvira consistently highlighted his ability to go low, finishing on 21 under par in his opening two triumphs before carding a 24 under par total en route to triumphing in Switzerland.

The trio of victories ensured Elvira made an immediate jump back to the European Tour. He certainly made the most of the opportunity, winning the Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year award after a strong season in 2016.

Moritz Lampert

Mo Lampert

One of two players to earn automatic promotion to the European Tour after winning three times in 2014, the German began the season without full Challenge Tour status. A victory at the Kärnten Golf Open soon changed that, and the then 22-year-old soon extended his winning tally after winning the Challenge de España two weeks later.

By August, Lampert had earned instant promotion to the European Tour after securing his third Challenge Tour title of the season with a superb display in the Azerbaijan Golf Challenge Open.

Benjamin Hébert

Benjamin Hebert

Benjamin Hébert earned automatic promotion via the three-win rule not once, but twice, during the first half of the 2010s.

After claiming three wins in 2011, he returned to the Challenge Tour in 2014 and put together yet another impressive season.

After tasting victory earlier in the year in Norwegian Challenge and Open Blue Green Côtes d'Armor Bretagne, he arrived at the season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final assured of his place on the top tier, but with the possibility of improving his exemption category. The Frenchman made no mistake, finishing five shots clear of compatriot Jérôme Lando Casanova to claim an emphatic third win of the season.

He remains the only player in Challenge Tour history to win three titles in two separate seasons.

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka

The four-time Major winner earned three victories in a seven-event stretch in 2013, his second season on the Challenge Tour.

After victory at the Montecchia Golf Open and the Fred Olsen Challenge de España, the American arrived in Scotland needing just one more title to secure promotion. He did so in emphatic style, defying brutal conditions to surge to a three-shot victory and secure his European Tour card courtesy of the three-win rule.

After victory, he uttered: “This is only the beginning…”

Kristoffer Broberg

Kristoffer Broberg

Remarkably, Kristoffer Broberg wrapped up his European Tour card within five starts of his Challenge Tour debut, holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at the 2012 Rolex Trophy to take the coveted crown and become the fastest graduate in history.

The Swede’s title blitz began on just his second Challenge Tour appearance at the Finnish Challenge, a win he followed up a week later with a second title in Scandinavia, at the Norwegian Challenge.

Incredibly, Broberg returned to the Challenge Tour later that season for the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Challenge hosted by Royal Golf Club where he claimed his fourth win in six appearances, a record that is yet to be surpassed.

Sam Little

Sam Little (Pic by Claudio Scaccini)

Sam Little enjoyed a remarkable run at the tail-end of the 2011 season, completing a Challenge Tour hat-trick in the space of just four tournaments after a sudden-death play-off victory over Pelle Edberg at the Roma Golf Open.

In a five-week stretch, the Englishman won three titles, with back-to-back triumphs at the M2M Russian Challenge Cup and ALLIANZ Golf Open Grand Toulouse, before completing the trio in Italy, where he carded final round of six under par 65 to force the tournament to extra-holes.

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