Darren Clarke's Champions Club at Moyvalley will earn its championship spurs when the Challenge Tour stops in Ireland this summer

The Challenge of Ireland will take place at the €100 m Kildare complex from June 11-14 after two years at Glasson in Athlone.

But Irish players like Noel Fox, Mick McGeady, Simon Thornton and Colm Moriarty will be playing fewer events than last season as the global economic downturn hits home.

While there were 33 events in 2008 when Gareth Maybin graduated through the rankings and Michael Hoey and Jonny Caldwell earned cards at the Q-School, only 24 events have been confirmed so far this term with a total prize fund of €1.9m

That's mainly due to the loss of the events on the Tour de Las Americas, which traditionally kicked off the Challenge Tour season in December and January.

Challenge Tour boss Alain de Soultrait said: “Whilst we were understandably sorry to see some of our events postponed for a year, particularly in South America, we look forward to welcoming them back onto the Schedule in 2010.

"We are also hopeful of adding two or three more events during the course of the 2009 season, which promises to be just as enjoyable and competitive as the previous 20.”

Fox and Co will start the season in Spain on March 5 and after visits to Colombia, Kenya and Morocco the action will return to continental Europe with Clarke's luxury track one of six new venues on the schedule.

The prize fund for the Challenge of Ireland has yet to be announced but is expected to remain in the €150,000 region.

Last season, the Irish Sports Council pumped €70,000 into the kitty and will almost certainly be investing again this year as part of its Team Ireland Golf Trust strategy.

Speaking at Glasson last year, the Sports Council's Chief Executive, John Treacy,  explained: “It is essential that a Challenge Tour event is hosted in Ireland. It complements the Team Ireland Golf Trust which is proving to be a very successful programme on behalf of aspiring touring professionals.”

The Golf Trust has handed out more than €2m in grants to promising tour players since 2000 with 21 golfers sharing €221,500  last season.

Trust Chairman Padraig O'hUiginn confessed then that some of the recipients hadn't delivered on the trust's hopes or expectations.

But with Maybin, Hoey and Caldwell graduating last year and former Trust recipients Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane earning their first tour wins, the trend appears to be changing.

Austin Mallon of the Irish Sports Council confirmed yesterday that the Trust has has received just 34 applications for grants this year as opposed to 39 in 2008.

European Tour rookie Caldwell has applied and is expected to be amongst the new recipients.


2009 Challenge Tour Schedule

March 5 - 8 Challenge de España TBC 150,000 €

March 19 - 22 Club Colombia Masters, Country Club de Bogotá, Bogotá, Colombia US$ 200,000

April 16 - 19  Tusker Kenya Open, Muthaiga GC, Nairobi, Kenya  €180,000 

April 30 - May 3 Banque Populaire Moroccan Classic,  El Jadida Sofitel Golf Resort, El Jadida, Morocco €150,000

May 14 - 17 ALLIANZ Open Côtes d'Armor Bretagne,  Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André, France €150,000

May 21 - 24 Piemonte Open, GC La Mandria, Torino, Italy €150,000

May 28 - 31 Telenet Trophy, Royal Waterloo, Brussels, Belgium €150,000

June 4 - 7  TBC TBC

June 11 - 14 Challenge of Ireland presented by Moyvalley, Moyvalley, Co. Kildare, Ireland

June 18 - 21 SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC, Aa St Omer GC, Lumbres, France €800,000

June 25 - 28 The Swedish Challenge Båstad GK, Båstad, Sweden

July 2 - 5 Credit Suisse Challenge,  Wylihof GC, Luterbach, Switzerland

July 9 - 12 ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon, Golf du Gouverneur, Monthieux, France

July 16 - 19 TBC

July 23 - 26 SWALEC Wales Challenge, Vale Hotel Golf & Spa Resort, Cardiff, Wales €150,000

July 30 - Aug 2 Scottish Challenge, Macdonald Spey Valley GC, Aviemore, Scotland

Aug. 6 - 9 SK Golf Challenge, Linna GC, Vanajanlinna, Finland €175,000

Aug. 13 - 16 Trophée du Golf de Genève, Golf de Genève, Genève, Switzerland €210,000

Aug. 20 -23 TBC

Aug. 27 - 30 Wroclaw Challenge, Toya G&CC, Wroclaw, Poland

Sept. 3 - 6 TBC

Sept. 10 - 13 Dutch Futures, GC Houtrak, Halfweg, The Netherlands

Sept. 17 - 20 Kazakhstan Open, Nurtau GC, Almaty, Kazakhstan €430,000

Sept. 24 - 27 Qingdao Golf Open, Qingdao Huashan Golf & Resort, Qingdao, China $500,000

Oct. 01 - 4 Oct ECCO Tour Championship, Holsterbo GK, Denmark €190,000

Oct. 8 - 11 ALLIANZ Open du Grand Toulouse, Golf de Toulouse Seilh, Seilh, France €150,000

Oct. 15 - 18 TBC

Oct. 22 - 25 Italian Federation Cup Le Querce, Rome, Italy €150,000

Oct. 28 - 31 Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, San Domenico Golf, Savalletri, Puglia, Italy €300,000