Challenge Tour in 3 weeks - still no Irish event

Who will succeed Edoardo Molinari as Challenge Tour No 1?The European Challenge Tour will continue to break fresh ground in 2010, with five new events and six new courses added to an eight-month schedule which will again span four different continents.

As for the small island of Ireland, adrift on stormy seas of recession with no sign of port in sight, it appears that the Challenge of Ireland is trying manfully not to get hurled overboard.

Officials from the European Challenge Tour visited these shores last week for talks with an entity that could become the first title sponsor of the event since it began life as the Ireland Ryder Cup Challenge in Killarney in 2005.

The week before The 3 Irish Open, July 22-25, has been reserved for an Irish Challenge Tour stop but where that event would be played is a mystery.

July is still a long way away and the tour will begin by making its debut in Colombia from February 18-21 before moving on to Africa for the Kenya Open from March 25-28 and the Moroccan Golf Classic from April 22-25, before heading back to Europe.

The six-month stint in Europe opens from April 29-May 2 with the inaugural Turkish Challenge, which will be played at the magnificent Carya Golf Club, designed by five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson of Australia. The €175,000 tournament will be the first Challenge Tour event played in the country since the Turkish Open in 1998.

As the season again reaches its climax with the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final at San Domenico Golf in Puglia, Italy, from October 27-30, when the top 20 graduates will be revealed, the battle to make the 45-man finale will be fought out the week before at another event new to the Challenge Tour, the Egyptian Open.

The US$250,000 tournament, in which Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie competed last year before it formed part of the Challenge Tour Schedule, sees the Tour’s first return to Egypt since the 2004 Sharm El Sheikh Challenge. 

The ALLIANZ Open de Strasbourg also appears on the schedule for the first time since 1998, when Australian John Senden won his second Challenge Tour title. The tournament, one of four ALLIANZ-sponsored events on this season’s Challenge Tour, will be played from September 2-5 at Golf de la Wantzenau in La Wantzenau, France.  

The final new event on the 2010 Schedule is the Green Challenge from July 29-August 1, which will be held at Hirsala Golf in Jorvas, Finland. The spectacular 6,265 metres, par 72 course was designed by big Ulsterman David Jones.

He said: “When I first saw Hirsala I thought it would be a wonderful challenge to fit a golf course into such a classic Finnish landscape, and I’m delighted with the result.”

The three other new courses added to the schedule are: the 6,292 metres, par 72 Championship Course at Rinkven GC in Anvers, Belgium, which will for the first time host the Telenet Trophy from May 27-30; the North Course at GreenEagle GC in Winsen, Germany, which will host the ECCO Tour Championship from August 19-22 and which, at 7,208 metres, will be the longest course played on the Challenge Tour this season; and Golf Sempechersee in Hildisrieden, Switzerland, the new home of the Credit Suisse Challenge from July 15-18.

Rolex returns as title sponsors of the second tournament to be held in Switzerland, the 40-man Rolex Trophy, which will again be played at Golf Club de Genève from August 12-15.

The elite event will, along with the €200,000 Scottish Hydro Challenge, the €300,000 Apulia San Domenico Grand Final and of course the €600,000 dual-ranking SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC, go a long way towards determining the 20 players who graduate onto The European Tour at the end of the season.

Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the sponsors, promoters and the various federations who in these challenging economic times continue to offer their full support to the Challenge Tour.

"We have once again devised a very attractive schedule which we can be proud of, and which will excite our Members. One of our main aims in recent years has been to improve the quality of the courses we play on, and I am confident we have again raised the bar this year with some exceptional courses.”