As a new crop of talented players find their feet on the European Tour, we’ve profiled this year’s graduating class from the European Challenge Tour.
Find out more about the 15 who made the grade this year.
Francesco Laporta, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 1
In his third full season on the Challenge Tour, Laporta won two of its biggest events, the Hainan Open and the Challenge Tour Grand Final, to finish the year on top of the Road to Mallorca Rankings. Known for his consistent ball striking and scoring ability, the 29-year-old became the fourth Italian to be crowned Challenge Tour Number One and will return to the European Tour, where he played in 2016, full of confidence after proving himself in his home Rolex Series event. The home favourite finished in a tie for seventh at the Italian Open, the best result of any player from the host country.
Calum Hill, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 2
The Scot first won on the Challenge Tour in 2018 but began playing halfway through the season and was unable to build up enough points to graduate. In 2019 he returned, and, in his first full campaign, collected two wins, at the Euram Bank Open and the Made in Denmark Challenge – presented by FREJA, in the span of three starts, to seal his promotion to the European Tour by mid-summer. Hill is renowned for his putting ability, which pairs nicely with his high swing speed and his knack for finding a way to get it around almost any style of golf course. Like Laporta, Hill was the leading home player in his home Rolex Series event, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, so look out for big things from the talented 25-year-old.
Richard Bland, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 3
You have probably heard of the Road to Mallorca Number Three. Known by his peers as “Blandy”, the 46-year-old assembled an incredible campaign on the Challenge Tour after losing his European Tour card for the first time in ten years. He was the highest ranking player to not record a win, but what he lacked in trophies, he more than made up for in consistency. The Englishman had four runner-up finishes in 2018, which were part of seven top tens in only 19 starts last term. The elder statesman in the Class of 2019 is known for his ability to “put his head down and get the job done.”
Sebastian Heisele, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 4
It was a tale of two halves for the German in 2019, who played the first seven tournaments in four over par and his final eight tournaments in 81 under par. Known as a player who is not afraid of going low, Heisele’s fortunes all changed in August when he fired an opening round 61 at the KPMG Trophy. Whatever clicked that day must have stayed with him as he collected a tied 13th place that week in Belgium, before excelling for the rest of the season. The 31-year-old won the very next week at the Open de Bretagne, and then collected a third place finish, and two runner-up showings, including at the Challenge Tour Grand Final, to finish fourth on the Road to Mallorca in only 15 starts all season.
Adrian Meronk, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 5
Despite being only 26-years-old, Meronk will likely go down in history as the ‘godfather of Polish golf’. He is the first Polish player to earn a European Tour card, and he assembled what was arguably the most consistent campaign on the Road to Mallorca. Known for his ball striking and course management skills, Meronk recorded an astounding ten top ten finishes, more than any other player, and wrote his name into the record books when he became the first Polish player to win a Challenge Tour event when he triumphed at the 57˚ Open de Portugal @ Morgado Resort by two shots.
Jack Senior, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 6
After eight seasons on the Challenge Tour, Senior finally secured his long-awaited promotion to the European Tour as he took his game to new heights. A fearless player who dissects a golf course as well as anyone, the 31-year-old picked up his second-career Challenge Tour victory — and first in four years — at the innovative ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, Presented by Modest! Golf Management. The Englishman went on to make four more top five finishes before the season’s end. Look for Senior to utilise his high golf IQ and make an impact on the European Tour in 2020.
Robin Roussel, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 7
It was a breakout year for Roussel, who wasted no time in getting his second season on the Challenge Tour off to a flying start. The Frenchman recorded top 12 finishes in each of his first four starts, and then responded to a rare missed cut—he missed only three all season— with a win on home soil at the Hauts de France – Pas de Calais Golf Open. The 25-year-old’s rock-solid season was complete with seven top tens and four top fives, as he built a reputation for being proficient in all aspects of the game, which is why many are eyeing him as a top prospect in this graduating class.
Antoine Rozner, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 8
It took no time for Rozner to make a splash on the European Tour as he recently took part in a thrilling play-off at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, where he and eventual champion Rasmus Højgaard exchanged birdies, with Rozner eventually losing out to an eagle. A fast start to the European Tour season might have been expected from the Frenchman, who has known he would graduate ever since claiming back-to-back wins at the Challenge de España and Prague Golf Challenge back in May. If you get a chance, listen to the sound the ball makes when the 26-year-old strikes it, as he has a knack for finding the dead centre of the clubface.
Matthew Jordan, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 9
British golf fans may recognise Jordan’s name after he carded the Hillside Golf Club course record, a nine under par 63, to lead this year’s Betfred British Masters after day one. The 2017 Walker Cup standout delivered on high expectations to earn a European Tour card in his rookie campaign on the Challenge Tour, collecting a win at the Italian Challenge Open Eneos Motor Oil in the process. At only 23-years-old, Jordan’s incredible clubhead speed will make him a threat to win almost every week he tees it up.
Ricardo Santos, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 10
The Portuguese veteran returns to the European Tour following an impressive campaign on the Challenge Tour where he collected three podium finishes. The 37-year-old was one of seven graduates over the age of 30, and his impressive season was highlighted by a share of third at the Rolex Trophy, a runner-up showing at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge and a win at the Swiss Challenge Presented by Swiss Golf. Santos re-joins the European Tour having regained the form that earned him a win at the Madeira Island Open – Portugal in 2012.
Cormac Sharvin, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 11
Much like Laporta and Hill, Sharvin also earned the distinction of finishing his home Rolex Series event as the leading national player when he claimed a share of 15th at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this summer— beating the likes of Open champion Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington. If there is one word that should be used to describe the 27-year-old’s game, it is “consistent.” The Dublin resident amassed eight top ten finishes in 17 starts to earn a rookie season on the European Tour without having won. Sharvin’s uncle Bo caddies for Shane Lowry, so expect Sharvin to make a fast start to the year in 2020, that is, if he is able to extract all of the course-knowledge from his uncle over the holidays.
Oliver Farr, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 12
In fewer starts than any other graduate, Farr secured his promotion to the European Tour in only 14 appearances. Remarkably, the Welshman missed just a single cut all year—and still shot 69-69 that week. At 31-years-old, he has become a bit of a Challenge Tour specialist. He picked up his third-career win on the circuit at the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour, one of five top tens this season, as he secured promotion to the European Tour for a third time, after accomplishing the feat in 2014 and 2016 as well. Farr proved this year that he can handle the heat, after he came into the Challenge Tour Grand Final occupying the nerve-wracking 15th and final graduation spot in the Road to Mallorca Rankings. Unsurprisingly, he rose to the occasion and notched a tied sixth place finish which has sent him back to the European Tour filled with confidence.
Darius van Driel, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 13
Fans of the European Tour’s innovative competitions will recognise van Driel after he made it to the final of the Belgian Knockout this year, ultimately finishing as runner-up to Guido Migliozzi. The 30-year-old has rounded into form in recent years on the Challenge Tour, and after picking up a win last year, he upped the ante to claim one of the circuit’s most prestigious titles, the Rolex Trophy. The Dutchman is a no-drama style player, who relishes the big moments and played his way into the mix numerous times throughout the Challenge Tour season, which led him to a formidable seven top ten finishes in 19 starts on the Road to Mallorca.
Connor Syme, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 14
Syme put the disappointment of losing his European Tour card at the end of 2018 behind him quickly and rallied to win the first tournament of the Challenge Tour season, the Turkish Airlines Challenge. The Scot spent the entire campaign inside the coveted top 15 of the Road to Mallorca Rankings, and used his season on the Challenge Tour to refine all aspects of his game. The focused effort seems to be paying off, and in his first two starts back on the big stage, he has picked up a tied 11th place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and a tied ninth place finish at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. Still only 24-years-old, Syme has reinforced the foundation of his professional game, and still has plenty of time to mature into the star player many have tipped him to become.
Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez, Road to Mallorca Ranking: 15
It went down to the wire at the Challenge Tour Grand Final for Garcia Rodriguez, who needed Sebastian Heisele to par the final hole of the season in order for him to hold onto the final European Tour card up for grabs. It was a whirlwind season for the Spaniard, who began 2019 without any status on the Challenge Tour. That all changed when he won twice on the Alps Tour early on in the year to earn a start on home-soil at the Challenge de España. The 30-year-old capitalised on the opportunity and finished as joint-runner up to earn status on the Challenge Tour for the remainder of the year. He added a second runner-up finish at the 57˚ Open de Portugal @ Morgado Golf Resort before sealing his dream-promotion to the European Tour by the slimmest of margins at the Challenge Tour Grand Final.