The European Challenge Tour’s Rankings race begins this week at the Turkish Airlines Challenge and we have taken a look at five things you need to know.
New season, new venue
The Turkish Airlines Challenge will be held at Samsun Golf Club for the first time. The venue is the first and only course in Turkey which is built by the municipality by filling in part of the season. It was designed by Kevin Ramsey to USGA standards and is only the second links-style course in Turkey. Samsun Golf Club was originally built to a nine-hole specification for the 2017 Deaflympics but was increased in order to hold professional tournaments. The course is a municipal venue and around 2,000 people have been taught to place golf since its opening in 2016.
Although the first event on the Challenge Tour International Schedule was the Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla, the Turkish Airlines Challenge is the first tournament to count towards the Rankings. The top 15 on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit will earn life-changing European Tour cards at the end of the campaign and with the number of tournaments with similar prize funds increasing in 2019, the Rankings race is likely to favour those who show a season of consistency.
(Junior) Ryder Cup pedigree
The 2019 Turkish Airlines Challenge marks a first Challenge Tour appearance for Nicolai Højgaard, who starred at last year’s Junior Ryder Cup. The Dane earned a point and a half for Team Europe in their narrow 12 ½ - 11 ½ defeat to the United States at Golf Disneyland. He beat American Canon Claycomb in the Tuesday singles after earning a half alongside identical twin brother Rasmus in the Monday Foursomes. Højgaard reached a high of Number Five in the World Amateur Golf Ranking before turning professional after the European Men’s Club Trophy last year.
One man who knows all about winning at Samsun Golf Club is Allen John. The German – who has had less than five per cent hearing capacity since birth – came second at the Porsche European Open as an amateur in 2018. After a distinguished amateur career, John turned professional in 2011 but was cruelly forced to retire in 2013 due to a serious pubic bone injury. The German regained amateur status and won the gold medal at the 2017 Deaflympics at Samsun Golf Club. Following his victory, John was awarded the Silver Laurel Leaf, the highest state award for sporting excellence in Germany.
Making their debuts
The first event of the season is also the first opportunity for last year’s satellite stars to make their mark on the Challenge Tour. Players from the Alps Tour, EuroPro Tour, Pro Golf Tour and the Nordic Golf League have earned their spots this season following excellent showings on the satellite tours last year. All of the respective Order of Merit toppers from the four tours will be teeing it up at Samsun Golf Club this week, here are the names to look out for: Dave Coupland, Craig Howie, Aksel Olsen, Santiago Tarrio Ben.