The European Challenge Tour today announced a 2014 schedule which reflects its growing success and diversity, with new tournaments in Slovakia and China as well as a return to Turkey, while four big-money events will form the season-ending Final Swing culminating in the Grand Final in Dubai.
The 2013 season marked the 25 year anniversary of the Challenge Tour and there could not have been a more fitting end to the year-long celebrations. The Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club provided a suitably glamorous finale to the season, while Henrik Stenson made history by becoming the first former Challenge Tour Number One to repeat the feat on The European Tour with his glorious Race to Dubai victory.
The tour now enters a new era as it continues to attract the best young talent from not just Europe, but also from America and beyond, and the 2014 schedule reflects that pioneering spirit with 25 tournaments taking place in 20 different countries, more than a quarter of them outside Europe.
For those players hoping to earn their golden ticket to The European Tour by finishing in the top 15 of the Challenge Tour Rankings, the Final Swing will provide the sternest test of all as they embark on a four-week adventure beginning with the inaugural Shankai China Classic, which takes place from October 16-19.
Another Chinese event follows a week later with the return of The Foshan Open, before the beautiful Almouj, The Wave provides the backdrop for the National Bank of Oman Classic, the final battle in the race to reach the season finale.
The Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club, with its breath-taking clubhouse and stunning course, will once again set the scene for the season climax from November 6-9.
While there are many exciting additions, the strength and stability of the tour is underlined by the continuation of events such as Spain’s Challenge de Catalunya and Fred Olsen Challenge de España, the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open, Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge and Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne in France as well as the Swiss Challenge and the Scandinavian double of the Norwegian Challenge and Finnish Challenge.
The race for graduation to The European Tour will tee off with the historic Barclays Kenya Open in Nairobi from March 6-9, an event which has been in existence since 1967, before touching down on European soil for the first time for the Challenge de Catalunya, from April 24-27.
Big money will once again be at stake at the Madeira Islands Open from May 8-11, a week before the players enjoy a double-header of new venues as the National Golf Club hosts the Turkish Airlines Challenge and then the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda is played at Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein for the first time.
The sojourn through Europe will be in full flow when Cleydael Golf and Country Club, in the Belgian town of Aartselaar, makes its Challenge Tour debut for the Belgian Challenge Open from June 19-22, a week before the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts returns for its ninth edition with an increased prize fund of €250,000.
July begins with a trip to Germany for the second edition of the newly-sponsored Aegean Airlines Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort before the Challenge Tour makes its debut in Slovakia with the inaugural D+D Real Slovakia Challenge Open at Penati Golf Resort in Senice, from July 10-13.
The lucrative Rolex Trophy has always proved a pivotal point in the Challenge Tour season and it also enters its 26th year when it returns to Golf Club de Genève from August 20-23.
The 2014 season will be a landmark year for the Kazakhstan Open, which celebrates its tenth anniversary when it returns to Almaty from September 18-21, with an increased prize fund of €450,000. As one of the most successful ventures into unknown golfing territories in the history of the Challenge Tour, it will provide the perfect prelude for the season conclusion, the Final Swing.
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “The Challenge Tour had much to celebrate last year with our former number one player Henrik Stenson enjoying remarkable success on both sides of the Atlantic; while another of our alumni, Justin Rose, claimed his first Major title at the US Open Championship.
“New tournaments such as those in Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Oman and China also raised the bar for the Challenge Tour in terms of facilities, organisation and ambition.
“I believe the 2014 schedule reflects the growing stature of the Challenge Tour as the best place for talented young players to begin their professional careers and learn their trade en route to the top of the world game.
“Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein both chose to begin their professional careers in Europe and on the Challenge Tour in recent years before going on to do great things, and we believe many more will follow. It is certainly exciting times for the Challenge Tour.
“We are delighted to visit Slovakia for the first time this year and we must thank Mr Petr Dedek for his continued support for the Challenge Tour in hosting two events on our 2014 schedule, while we are very happy to see his ambition also being realised on The European Tour this year with the inaugural D+D Real Czech Masters.
“We thoroughly look forward to returning to Turkey to support the country’s growing ambitions in the game of golf, while we are delighted to add another Chinese event to the list after the success of The Foshan Open last year.
“Our Grand Final at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai proved a hugely popular event with players, staff and fans last year and we look forward to another exciting climax as the four-tournament Final Swing becomes an integral part of our season.
“Of course, the national federations and our long-term partners have always been the backbone to the Challenge Tour schedule, so we thank them for their ongoing support and we look forward to continuing our mutual success in 2014.”