The 2010 Challenge Tour season will open with a new event in Colombia.
As the Challenge Tour works on finalising the rest of the season's calendar (there is still no guarantee that the Challenge of Ireland will continue), players can look forward to a trip to South America for the Abierto Internacional de Golf II Copa Antioquia, which will be played from February 18-21 at Club Campestre El Rodeo Sede La Macarena near Medellin.
When it formed part of the Tour de las Americas (TLA) schedule last year, the event was won by Challenge Tour Member Peter Gustafsson of Sweden, who subsequently went on to clinch the TLA Order of Merit.
The 2010 edition marks the first time the US$220,000 tournament will be co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and the TLA, whose seven-year partnership started with the 2003 Costa Rica Open.
In recent seasons, the Argentine trio of Rafa Echenique, Tano Goya and Alan Wagner have all progressed onto the Challenge Tour after winning events co-sanctioned with the TLA, with Echenique and Goya having subsequently graduated to and, in the latter’s case, won on The European Tour.
Henrique Lavie, Commissioner of the TLA, said: “This event is of great importance to us, as it maintains our relationship with the Challenge Tour. In the past, the relationship has been of great benefit to many of our members who have progressed onto the Challenge Tour and then The European Tour. Once again half the field will be made up of players from the TLA and Colombia, which gives our members another great opportunity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Governor of Antioquia, Luis Alfredo Ramos Botero, without whose efforts it would not have been possible to stage this international event.”
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “We are very pleased to return to South America and continue our relationship with the Tour de las Americas. With golf due to be introduced to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 the game’s popularity in the region is sure to grow even further in the coming years, and we are pleased to play our part in that process. The event also gives our Members a great opportunity to play in winter, and I am sure they will thoroughly enjoy playing the superb course at Club Campestre El Rodeo.”
The spectacular 6,792 yard, par 71 course, which opened in 1952 and is set in the foothills of the Andes mountain range, is sure to provide a true test for the 144-man field, made up of 60 Challenge Tour Members, 50 players from the TLA, 25 from the Canadian Tour and nine from the host nation.
It is also where European Tour Member Camilo Villegas – whose younger brother Manny finished tied 11th at last year’s Club Colombia Masters presentado por Samsung on the Challenge Tour – honed the technique which would later see him capture two US PGA Tour titles in 2008 en route to a career-high of seventh place on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney is the latest Irishman to join the Challenge Tour ranks.