Watch European golf these days and you can be forgiven for feeling like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The middle part of George Hill’s seminal movie showcases the chase scene in which a posse pursues Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy) and Robert Redford (the Sundance Kid) through the badlands. After several unsuccessful attempts to shake the posse, the dynamic duo becomes intrigued as to the identities of their pursuers.
“Who are those guys?” they ask several times.
It’s a question many European golf fans can be forgiven for asking at this point in the season. Only let’s not be sexist about this. We can ask the same question about the Ladies European Tour.
We’re just past the midway point in the European season, and yet I’m the first to admit there are European winners who I would have a tough time picking out of a police lineup.
And I’m supposed to be the expert!
It’s easier these days to win in Europe than it’s ever been. The European Tour and LET will promote that fact as a sign of the strength in depth of their tours.
That’s not entirely true.
One of the main reasons why there are so many first-time winners these days stems from the two-tier nature of the European Tour and LET. Many of the tournaments that make up both tours qualify as main tour events by name only.
Some European Tour events are not much better than glorified Challenge Tour events. Take the Wales Open, for example. Only three players in the top 50 of the world ranking played in this event even though it was staged on next year’s Ryder Cup course.
As for the LET, only the Evian Masters and the Women’s British Open qualify as big events.
So without further ado, here are 10 European Tour, LET or European Seniors winners (in alphabetical order) from this season that most experts – myself included – would find hard to pick out of a police lineup.
I’ve included their 2009 achievements to further your knowledge – and mine:
Andrew Butterfield. A 37-year-old Englishman who currently occupies second place on the European Challenge Tour rankings. The Londoner has earned €85,178 on the secondary circuit this year. He won The Princess event in Denmark. He also has second, fifth and ninth place finishes.
Tania Elosegui. U.S. golf fans will soon get a chance to see this 27-year-old Spaniard in the Solheim Cup. She made the team courtesy of victory in the ABN AMRO Ladies Open. She also has three runner-up finishes and a third place.
Tano Goya. This 20-year-old Argentinean won the Madeira Island Open, his maiden victory. He also topped last year’s Tour de Las Americas Order of Merit.
Oskar Henningsson. He might be the most recognizable of the names on this list since he won last week. The 23-year-old Swede triumphed in the Moravia Silesia Open presented by ALO Diamonds. He also graduated in first place from the 2008 European Tour Q School.
Jeppe Huldahl (pictured above). The Danish player probably won’t make next year’s European Ryder Cup team. If he does he’ll have no worries getting around Celtic Manor. The 27-year-old from Copenhagen was a surprise winner of this year’s Celtic Manor Wales Open.
Diana Luna. The 26-year-old Italian has two wins on this year’s LET. She won the AIB Irish Ladies Open and the SAS Ladies Masters back to back. She also has two second-place finishes and a spot on the European Solheim Cup team.
Christian Nilsson. Another first time European Tour winner. The 30-year-old Swede won the Saint Omer Open, a dual-ranking European Tour/Challenge Tour event. He is coached by Henri Reis, former coach of Annika Sorenstam.
Marianne Skarpnord. This 23-year-old Norwegian triumphed in the Deutsche Bank Ladies Open, her first LET victory. She made a run at the European Solheim Cup team but fell short.
Bertus Smit. Scan the European Seniors Tour money list and you will find Smit in fourth spot with just over €100,000. Most of that came from winning the Ryder Cup Wales Senior Open, his only win on the European over-50 circuit. He spent 30 years working as a wheat farmer before turning professional.
Daniel Vancsik. A six-shot victory in this year’s BMW Italian Open was the 30-year-old Argentinean’s second European Tour win, following the 2008 Madeira Islands Open.