It is one tournament in the world where the past year’s champion never returns to defend his title, but with a clear objective of trying to create future heroes, that is exactly how the organisers and sponsors would like the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final to be.
It will be the time again to gaze into the crystal ball when some of these future champions of the game gather for the second edition of the season-ending championship of the European Challenge Tour at Al Badia Golf Club from November 5-8.
As usual, the €350,000 tournament will feature the top-45 players from this season’s Order of Merit. The prize money has been increased by €20,000 from last year. While there is a huge cheque of €60,085 for the winner, more significant is the fact that the top-15 players in the Money List at the end of the tournament will earn their European Tour cards for 2015.
With the defending champion, India’s Shiv Kapur in this case, plying his trade on the main tour, it will be an opportunity for a new champion to be crowned.
Unlike American Brooks Koepka, who decided not to play the tournament last year after earning a battlefield promotion by winning three tournaments during the season, current Challenge Tour rankings leader, Germany’s Moritz Lampert has confirmed he will be here despite achieving a similar feat this year.
And Nick Tarratt, director of the European Tour’s Dubai office, said the Challenge Tour is becoming truly global, especially with the recent influx of American players.
Koepka, who has now improved to No72 in the world rankings and Peter Uihlein are just two recent examples of players travelling across the Atlantic and participating in the European Tour Qualifying School, and then playing on the Challenge Tour if they are unable to make it to the main tour.
Tarratt said: “The Challenge Tour is becoming a global tour, and it has certainly been helped by the fact that there is no longer a Qualifying School tournament in the US. If you have to make it to the PGA Tour, you have to play your way through the developmental tour. So, we are seeing a lot of Americans coming and playing the Q-School in Europe.
“And you will see that in the grand final this year. We have a number of nationalities being represented. We will be trying to interact and attract these communities to the tournament. With a number of things being planned by Al Badia Golf Club and sponsors Al Futtaim Automotive Group and InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), I am sure it will be a great event for the players as well as fans.”
James Shippey, golf club manager at Al Badia Golf Club, said attracting more fans was one of his key objectives this year, and that was one of the reasons why they decided to make it a Saturday finish.
“One of our key initiatives for the 2014 staging was to work on a strategy to attract more of the UAE community to the event, to share in the great experience of the Challenge Tour Grand Final,” Shippey said.
“We felt that a Saturday finish would be great and will give people the opportunity to attend without having to take a day off work.
“This is coupled with a focus on getting golf into the community through offering free golf lessons every day and providing complimentary food and beverage to all attending the event. We look forward to welcoming many new fans.”
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