The Challenge Tour returns to European soil for the first time in the 2021 Road to Mallorca this week when the Range Servant Challenge by Hinton Golf takes place at Hinton Golf Club, near Malmö in Sweden. Here are our Three to Watch...
It has been a truly remarkable start to the Challenge Tour season for South Africans, so there is only one nation we could start with for our Three to Watch.
Bekker, a seven-time Sunshine Tour winner, is an experienced campaigner on the European circuit down the years. But never has he enjoyed such an impressive run of form as in 2021, sharing runner-up in season-opening Limpopo Championship – having missed out to Brandon Stone in the four-man play-off - and finishing tied third in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.
That purple patch means he enters this week in third spot on the Road to Mallorca Rankings. The 36-year-old has played only once on Swedish soil, in the 2018 Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson, finishing tied 18th.
But with his eyes set firmly on a career-changing season on the Challenge Tour and, no doubt, feeding off the inspiration of this three winning compatriots this season – Stone, JC Richie and Wilco Nienaber – Bekker is sure to be brimming with confidence this week.
The Challenge Tour is renowned as a conveyor belt of rising stars and this Irishman, making his professional debut this week, may well be another one.
Sugrue rose to prominence by winning the 2019 Amateur Championship, beating Scotland’s Euan Walker – who is also in the field this week – in the final of prestigious event. That earned him incredible experiences such as spots in the 2019 Open Championship and the 2020 editions of the U.S. Open and Masters Tournament.
While he did not progress to the weekend in any of his Major appearances, he certainly put in credible performances, particularly at Augusta National where he signed off with a one under par second round 71.
An opening 67 in last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, helping him make the weekend at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, also showed he can cut it in European Tour circles, so he will certainly have no fear this week at Hinton Golf Club.
There is inevitably an increased interest in the career development of those players involved in the amateur game’s showpiece team event, the Walker Cup, and Ben Jones makes his professional debut this week just days after representing Great Britain and Ireland in last week’s narrow loss to the USA.
The Englishman suffered a pair of defeats in the singles at Seminole Golf Club at the weekend, but that disappointment will make way for excitement as he prepares for his very first appearance on the Challenge Tour this week.
There is no shortage of former Walker Cup players to aspire to, from Rory McIlroy to Tommy Fleetwood and even Tiger Woods, and, while Jones will no doubt know there is a long road to be traversed to reach the highest echelons of the game, the Northamptonshire player will be full of enthusiasm this week as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.