Challenge Tour to stage two Irish events; Irish Challenge venue to be confirmed

Challenge Tour to stage two Irish events; Irish Challenge venue to be confirmed
Muthaiga Golf Club will host the €500,000 Barclays Kenya Open. Picture: Phil Inglis

Muthaiga Golf Club will host the €500,000 Barclays Kenya Open. Picture: Phil Inglis

The European Challenge Tour is talking to several potential venues and sponsors about hosting the Irish Challenge in October.

While the Northern Ireland Open will take place at Galgorm Castle for the sixth year running from July 16-19, the Sport Ireland and CGI backed Irish Challenge will be moving from Mount Wolseley to a new venue.

The Challenge Tour has spoken to several venues on the east coast and with event set for October 4-7 on the 2018 schedule released this week, agreement with a new venue and sponsor has yet to be reached.

"We're talking to several potential venues about hosting the tournament in October and we'll announce the chosen venue in due course, once everything is agreed," said Senior Project Manager Jamie Hodges from the European Challenge Tour.

"The same applies with the title sponsor. The position is open, we're talking to interested parties and are looking to have a new title sponsor for this year's event."

Sport Ireland invests a significant sum in the €180,000 Irish Challenge each year, guaranteeing starts for up to 35 Irish players.

It's a key event for the Team Ireland Golf scheme, administered by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, which provides financial and non-financial support to professional tour golfers, both male and female, wishing to achieve success at an international level.
Twelve aspiring Irish professionals split €94,500 last year and applications for 2018 grants closed last Monday.

Players such as Stephanie Meadow, Gavin Moynihan, Gary Hurley, Chris Selfridge, Ruaidhri McGee, Cormac Sharvin, Dermot McElroy, David Carey and Conor O'Rourke will again be seeking grants while it remains to be seen what happens when Leona Maguire turns professional in the summer.

The Challenge Tour remains the major tour for most players, and the developmental tour announced this week that it would stage as many as 29 events in 23 countries in 2018, with all players chasing a spot in the top 15 on the Order of Merit and graduation to the European Tour.

2018 European Challenge Tour schedule
22-25 March Barclays Kenya Open Muthaiga GC, Nairobi, Kenya €500,000
26-29 April Turkish Airlines Challenge Gloria GC, New Course, Belek, Antalya, Turkey €200,000
3-6 May Challenge de España Izki GC, Urturi, Alava Province, Spain €200,000
10-13 Open de Portugal Morgado G&CC, Portimao, Algarve, Portugal €200,000
17-20 Andalucía - Costa del Sol Match Play 9 TBC - Spain €200,000
24-27 D+D REAL Czech Challenge Golf & Spa Kunětická Hora, Dřiteč, Czech Republic €185,000
31-3 June Swiss Challenge presented by Association Suisse de Golf Golf Sempachersee, Lucerne, Switzerland TBC
7-10 KPMG Trophy L'Empereur G&CC, Ways, Genappe, Belgium €180,000
14-17 Hauts de France Golf Open Aa Saint-Omer GC, Lumbres, France TBC
21-24 SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts Macdonald Spey Valley GC, Aviemore, Scotland €250,000
28-1 July Made in Denmark Challenge presented by Ejner Hessel Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, Farso, Denmark €180,000
5-8 Prague Golf Challenge Prague City Golf, Prague, Czech Republic €185,000
12-15 Italian Challenge Is Molas Resort, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy €300,000
19-22 Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, Le Vaudreuil, France €210,000
26-29 Euram Bank Open GC Adamstal, Ramsau, Austria €180,000
2-5 Aug Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson Katrineholms GK, Katrineholm, Sweden €200,000
9-12 Vierumäki Finnish Challenge Vierumäki Resort, Vierumäki, Finland €180,000
16-19 Northern Ireland Open Galgorm Castle, Ballymena, Northern Ireland €180,000
22-25 (Wed-Sat) Rolex Trophy Golf Club de Genève, Genève, Switzerland €250,000
30-2 Sept Cordon Golf Open Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André, Pléneuf, France €210,000
6-9 Bridgestone Challenge Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & Spa, Luton, Bedfordshire, England €180,000
13-16 Kazakhstan Open Zhailjau Golf Club, Almaty, Kazakhstan €450,000
20-23 TBC - Europe TBC - Europe TBC
28-30 TBC - England TBC - England TBC
4-7 Oct Irish Challenge TBC - Ireland €180,000
11-14 Hainan Open Sanya Haitang Bay Peninsula GC, Sanya, Hainan Island, China US$350,000
18-21 Foshan Open Foshan GC, Shishan Town, Nanhai District Foshan City, Guangzhou, China US$500,000
24-27 (Wed to Sat) Ras Al Khaimah 2018 Golf Challenge Al Hamra GC, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE US$350,000
1-4 Nov Challenge Tour Grand Final TBC €420,000

The eight-month season begins in March at the Barclays Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club, and that will be the most lucrative event with a €500,000 prize fund.

Following the Challenge Tour’s traditional curtain-raiser in Kenya is the Turkish Airlines Challenge in April, which will kick-off a run of 27 consecutive tournaments.

After Turkey will be the first ever ‘Iberian Swing’, which sees the Open de Portugal bookended by the Challenge de España and the innovative Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 – the match play meets stroke play event returns after a successful first staging last year. 

One of two trips to the Czech Republic closes out May before a busy June includes visits to Switzerland, Belgium, Scotland and Denmark, where Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort will stage a Challenge Tour event for the first time since 1998.

The Prague Golf Challenge kicks off July, followed by ventures to future Ryder Cup host nations France and Italy for the Italian Challenge and Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.

At the end of the month, the Challenge Tour will return to Adamstal Golf Club in Austria for the first time in ten years for the Euram Bank Open, one of three new tournaments this season.

Starting August is a fortnight in Scandinavia for the Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson and the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge before the Challenge Tour arrives at Galgorm Castle for one of the most popular events of the season, the Northern Ireland Open. 

The end of August is once again occupied by the Rolex Trophy, which continues as the longest-running Challenge Tour tournament, with Golf Club de Geneve hosting Europe’s top developmental tour for the 28th time.

During September the Challenge Tour will visit England twice – the Bridgestone Challenge will start the month while a new English event will close out the month.

Also taking place in September is the Cordon Golf Open, the prestigious Kazakhstan Open, which celebrates its 14th anniversary this year, and a new event in Europe – location to be confirmed.

Kick-starting October is the Irish Challenge, which is followed by an exciting fortnight in China for the Hainan Open and the Foshan Open – the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge and the Challenge Tour Grand Final will then bring the curtain down on the 2018 season.

Players who compete in the European Tour’s Rocco Forte Open – Verdura, the Belgian Knockout and the Shot Clock Masters will be able to earn Challenge Tour Rankings points through their performances in those events.

For the first time money made at both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship will count towards the Challenge Tour Rankings, with players being awarded points equivalent to 10% of prize money won.

Event Venue Prize
February 13-15 (Thu) WINTER SERIES - Red Sea El Ein Bay Open Sokhna Golf Club, El Ein Bay Sokhna, Red Sea, Egypt €40,000
19-21 (Wed) WINTER SERIES - Red Sea Little Venice Open Sokhna Golf Club, El Ein Bay Sokhna, Red Sea, Egypt €40,000
March 28-2 (Fri) ROMA OPEN Golf Nazionale, Roma, Italy €40,000
May 24-26 (Sat) Gösser Open GC Erzherzog Johann, Maria Lankowitz, Austria €42,500
May 31-2 June (Sat) Open de Saint-François Région Guadeloupe Golf de St François, Guadeloupe, West French Indies €43,000
Jun 7, 10 Alps de Andalucia - option 2 Exact date and venue TBA
Jun 14, 17 Alps de Andalucia - option 1 €48,000
Jun 21, 24 Open International de la Mirabelle d'Or Golf de La Grange aux Ormes, Metz, France €45,000
June 27-29 (Fri) Open La Pinetina - Memorial Giorgio Bordoni Golf La Pinetina, Milan, Italy €40,000
Jul 5, 08 Saint Malo Golf Open Saint Malo Golf Resort, Saint Malo, France €45,000
Jul 12, 15
Jul 18-20 (Fri) Alps de Las Castillas Leon Golf Club, Leon, Spain €48,000
Jul 26-28 (Sat) Open Iles Borromées Golf des Iles Borromées, Lake Major, Italy €40,000
Aug 29-31 (Fri) Cervino Open Cervino Golf Club, Valtourmenche (AO), Italy €40,000
Sep 6, 09 Citadelle Trophy International - Golf de Preisch Golf de Preisch, Basse-Rentgen, France €48,000
Sep 13, 16
Sep 21, 23 Abruzzo Open Miglianico Golf & Country Club, Pescara, Italy €40,000
Sep 28, 30
Oct 18, 21 Alps Tour Grand Final TBA min €50,000
Dec 9-10 (Sun/Mon) Qualifying School - First Stage La Cala Resort, Malaga, Spain
Dec 13-15 (Thu-Sat) Qualifying School - Final Stage La Cala Resort, Malaga, Spain €3,000

“With the addition of two new events and an increase in prize money, we have a very promising 2018 schedule in front of us,” said Alain de Soultrait, Challenge Tour Director.

“Over the years we have built a strong reputation for developing and growing the game, and by getting to the point where we now have such a consistent run of events reflects the strength of the Challenge Tour.

“Each year the Challenge Tour unearths the next generation of superstars, and it is vital that these players are given the opportunity to learn their craft by competing week in, week out on our tour.

“Last year two of our graduates won on the European Tour, with five others also managing to retain their playing rights in what was the most competitive season in recent memory.

“We must extend special thanks to the national federations, promoters, sponsors and partners. Without their continued support, the Challenge Tour would not exist, let alone thrive and grow as it currently does."

Since its inception in 1987, many players have progressed from the Challenge Tour and gone on to become Major champions – Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen – or Ryder Cup stars, such as Ian Poulter and Thomas Pieters.

The Alps Tour also announced its 2018 schedule this week with the likes of O'Rourke, Kevin LeBlanc, David Carey and Michael Dallat entered for the Winter Series events, which begin in Egypt in February.