New Challenge Tour pathway taking shape but it's TV history first for Grand Final

The final week of the 2022 Challenge Tour season will be played out live on television for the first time in Mallorca this week before details of a new pathway on to DP World Tour’s feeder circuit are announced later in the month.

The Grand Final, which has Rolex as a partner and is also supported by The R&A, starts on Thursday at Club de Golf Alcanada in Port d'Alcúdia, where Euan Walker is among 45 players still in the hunt for 20 coveted cards on the main tour next season.

Normally, the Challenge Tour coverage on Sky Sports Golf is limited to same-day highlights, but, with the DP World Tour schedule blank this week, the cameras will be rolling live for five hours on all four days from Thursday.

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“It is really special,” Jamie Hodges, Head of the Challenge Tour, told The Scotsman in the build up to the season finale, which carries a prize pot of around £430,000 - the biggest of the 28-event campaign.

Euan Walker in action during a practice day prior to the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at Club de Golf Alcanada in Alcudia. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.
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“I am really pleased for the Challenge Tour as a whole, but I am pleased for the 45 guys in particular because I think they’ve earned the opportunity to show everyone how good they are. They are ready to play on the main tour and you can see that from the record of the guys from last year on this season’s DP World Tour.”

That was reference to 14 of the 20 players to graduate a year ago having just retained DP World Tour cards for next season, including Ewen Ferguson, a two-time winner on the main circuit this year.

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This week’s field contains players from 16 different countries. “That’s perfect as we played in 16 different countries this season,” added Hodges, who took over the reins from Alain de Soultrait and the Frenchman looked as though he enjoyed being back among his many friends on the circuit ahead of playing in the pro-am on Wednesday. “It’s nice that we have that many countries and I think that has helped in securing live coverage this week.”

The main pathway to the Challenge Tour for British and Irish players over the past 20 years has been via the now disbanded PGA EuroPro Tour, where South African duo Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel both cut their teeth as well in the paid ranks before going on to become major winners.

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“It’s not just the EuroProTour but the other three as well,” observed Hodges, referring to the Alps Tour, Pro Golf Tour and Nordic Golf League. “The system, pathway, pyramid, whatever you want to call it has been working.”

Paul Lawrie’s Tartan Pro Tour, which already offers a total of 15 Challenge Tour invitations to the leading three players on its Order of Merit, with seven starts having been teed up by 2022 winner Jack McDonald, could be in the running to get some of the spare cards, with the English-based Clutch Pro Tour another possible option.

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“Lots of discussions and we are not too far away from being able to confirm a couple of things,” replied Hodges to being directly asked about what could be in the pipeline. “We wanted to focus on completing this season, but I’d have thought that later this month we’ll have an announcement about what is happening in that space.”

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