The European Challenge Tour takes a break this week after 15 events on the 2021 Road to Mallorca. Here are five things you might have missed from an enthralling and highly competitive season so far…
First time champions
The 2021 season has seen five players break into the winners’ circle for the first time to claim their maiden European Challenge Tour titles. This includes Santiago Tarrio, who is top of the Road to Mallorca Rankings, after securing his maiden victory at the REAL D+D Czech Challenge in June closely followed by a victory on home soil at the Challenge de España. Belgian Kristof Ulenaers exhibited a remarkable display on his professional debut to secure a convincing five-stroke victory as he claimed the Challenge de Cadiz trophy.
Scotsman Craig Howie also entered the winners’ circle by showcasing a nerveless display of frontrunning to secure an overwhelming seven-stroke victory at the Range Servant Challenge by Hinton Golf. Felix Mory of France was victorious at the Dormy Open after he refused to back down in a play-off to secure his maiden European Challenge Tour title and Wilco Nienaber secured an emotional first professional win on home soil at the Dimension Data Pro-Am, overcoming Henric Sturehed in a three-hole playoff.
Guess who’s back
There have been a few familiar faces that have returned to the winners’ circle, many who had not seen victory on the European Challenge Tour for a number of years including: Marcel Siem, Marcel Schneider, Daan Huizing, Stuart Manley, Ricardo Gouveia, Julien Brun and JC Ritchie. Four-time European Tour winner Siem claimed his first victory at the Le Vaudreuil since the 2014 BMW Masters in China – earning a place at The 149th Open where he finished in a share of 15th . Most recently, Ricardo Gouveia was triumphant at the Italian Challenge with his last victory coming in the 2015 NBO Golf Classic Grand final where he became the first Portuguese player to top the Challenge Tour Rankings.
This year there has been some spectacular golf courses on display, from the beautiful Irish coastal landscape of Portmarnock Links to the elegantly carved terrain of Golfclub Adamstal in Ramsau, Austria. This has given the players a platform where they can showcase the hard practice that they have put in and more than anything enjoy their golf whilst on Tour.
Showcasing top quality golf
Throughout the 2021 schedule there has been scintillating golf on display, including Sweden’s Christofer Blomstrand equaling the course record at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge at Golf & Spa Kunětická Hora set by now four-time Major Champion Brooks Koepka eight years ago with a ten under par round of 62. Italian Lorenzo Scalise posted the lowest round of his professional career with a bogey-free ten under par round of 61 in day three of the Kaskáda Golf Challenge; with many others performing at the top of their game.
European Challenge Tour graduates shining
Many of our graduates are shining on the European Tour with 2013 Challenge Tour graduate Tyrell Hatton teeing off the season in style by winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January – his fourth Rolex Series victory. Also, in fine form is 2019 graduate Antoine Rozner who emphatically won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters after holing an incredible 60 foot putt on the last hole to secure the title. Rozner is now representing France at the Olympic Games. South Africa’s Garrick Higgo has recorded two wins on the 2021 Race to Dubai already at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open and at the Canary Islands Championship, going on to be named the Golfer of the Month in April and May. Scotsman Robert MacIntyre has also been in consistent form recording six top 20 finishes on the European Tour in 2021 and most recently secured a tied eighth place at The Open.