First things first, for those who are not very familiar with the different Tours, the European Challenge Tour is the male subcategory of the Main European Tour. Since its inception in 1989, the Challenge Tour has developed into a proven training ground, where the champions-in-waiting compete across the globe for a place on the European Tour. Many players who have progressed from the Challenge Tour have gone on to become Major Champions. Including Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen. In addition to Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren.
Professional golfers usually start their career playing in smaller Tours such as the Alps Tour, that offers few spots for the Challenge Tour to the Top players by the end of every year. Currently ranked #1 in the Challenge Tour, the Spanish golfer Santiago Tarrio shares a piece of his personal experience. Tarrio explains the behind the scenes and the obstacles to overcome along the way towards the Main Tour:
“The Alps Tour is so slaughtered due to the traveling expenses, and the low money prizes. Best case scenario, your bank account finishes Par-even at the end of the season. But that is only possible if you constantly win the events. If otherwise, you are continuiously losing money to play.”
This week, the European Challenge Tour celebrates its last tournament of the season, The Grand Final. It takes places from November the 4th-7th, 2021 at the T-Golf & Country Club, in Mallorca, Spain. This is the fourth most veteran course on the Island. Usually, the entry list of the Challenge Tour events goes up to 140-150 participants. However, this tournament is a little different. The Top 45 players of the Challenge Tour season will make it to the Grand Final. Meanwhile, only the best 20 of the Ranking will earn a pass to the European Tour for next year.
Craig Howie of Scotland plays his tee shot on the 1st hole during Day One of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final. (Getty Images)
The Grand Final is the denouement of the season, and the Rankings don't leave room for big changes. The players fight week after week throughout the year to collect as many points as possible to climb up on the leaderboards. This allows them to increase their possibilities to earn a spot in the European Tour for the following season. For those hanging on by a thread to reach the big goal, this is their final chance to go all out and sum up those last few extra points to their ranking.
Unluckly, not all the Grand Final participants will qualify to the Main Tour. Some will remain behind the doors. To put into perspective the importance of making it to that Top 20, I would like to speak some numbers. The Grand Final offers the highest monetary prize of all year, 450,000€. The last position will collect 2,000€, compared to an average of 8,000€ that any player who makes the cut pockets on a regular European Tour event.
This year, all eyes were on the Spanish pro golfer Santiago Tarrio as he finished second in 2020. However, the results didn't go as expected. He shot 1-over in the opening round to finish at the end of the leaderboard. Only to come back stronger for the second round. Tarrio is 3-under par total for a Top 10. After a year of empty stands, the public is back to action and I guess they have decided that the show must go on.
A greenside leaderboard is seen at the end of the Day Two of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final. (Getty Images)