Fleetwood headlines Challenge Tour grads

Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood

While Europe’s stars were on show in Shanghai in the WGC–HSBC Champions event, the future was sorting itself out in Italy in the final event of the European Challenge Tour.

And the Class of 2011 looks pretty good.

The Apulia San Domenica Grand Final determined the 20 graduates from Europe’s junior circuit. Italy's Andrea Pavan, a former Texas A&M player, won the battle in Puglia, Italy, but England’s Tommy Fleetwood won the war.

Pavan took first place at 17-under 267, good enough for a one-shot victory over Fleetwood and the €56,650 first-place check. However, Fleetwood had the last laugh. He took the No. 1 Challenge Tour card by finishing atop the Challenge Tour money list.

Fleetwood ended the season with €148,913 in earnings. Pavan finished the year second, a little more than €15,000 behind the Englishman.

Much will be expected of Fleetwood next season. The man from Lancashire, England, turned pro with a glittering amateur career. He is a former English Amateur champion and British Amateur finalist.

Fleetwood was heavily sought-after by U.S. college coaches but chose instead to stay in England and concentrate on full-time amateur golf. He won this year’s Kazakhstan Open, the richest event on the European Challenge Tour.

Pavan helped Texas A&M win the 2009 NCAA Championship. He has been highly rated for a long time and was Italy’s highest-ranked player during his amateur days.

Expect Pavan to be pushing the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, and Matteo Manassero for the honor of being Italy’s best player on next year’s European Tour.

Aside from Fleetwood and Pavan, the Class of 2011 includes former world No. 1 amateur Jamie Moul. He finished eighth on the Challenge Tour money list. Moul, a former winner of the Brabazon Trophy, played on the 2007 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team alongside Rory McIlroy, Rhys Davies and Danny Willett. He’s taken longer to reach the big leagues than his teammates, and will be keen to make up for lost time.

France’s Benjamin Hebert took the fifth card. Hebert won the 2007 European Amateur Championship and represented his country in the 2008 Eisenhower Trophy. Hebert came through the French national team and is good prospect going forward.

So too is Spain’s Jorge Campillo, who finished ninth on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. Like Pavan, Campillo also played college golf. He spent four years at Indiana, where he was a two time All-American. Campillo was runner-up in the 2008 NCAA Championship, won the Big Ten Conference title and picked up two Big Ten Player of the Year awards.

As with every end-of-season race for the card, there were stories of ecstasy and agony. Andrew Johnson, Sam Walker and Pelle Edberg epitomized the former, while France’s Anthony Snobeck experienced the latter.

Johnson began the week in 27th place on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit but finished alone in third in Italy to take the 15th card. He was playing in only his 10th Challenge Tour event of the season.

Walker started the week 22nd on the pecking order but placed T-6 to end the year 16th on the money list.

Former European Tour pro Edberg had to finish in the top 5 to get his 2012 card and placed solo fifth to finish 18th on the money list.

Spare a thought, though, for Snobeck. He finished the season 21st on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit to miss his card by €801. He placed T-27 in Italy. He would have graduated to the 2012 European Tour had he finished three strokes better over the four rounds.

The European Challenge Tour class of 2011:

• 1. Tommy Fleetwood, England

• 2. Andrea Pavan, Italy

• 3. Sam Little, England

• 4. Ricardo Santos, Portugal

• 5. Benjamin Hebert, France

• 6. Daniel Denison, England

• 7. Federico Colombo, Italy

• 8. Jamie Moul, England

• 9. Jorge Campillo, Spain

• 10. Matthew Baldwin, England

• 11. Edouard Dubois, France

• 12. Simon Thornton, Ireland

• 13. Julien Quesne, France

• 14. Craig Lee, Scotland

• 15. Andrew Johnston, England

• 16. Sam Walker, England

• 17. Charles-Edouard Russo, France

• 18. Pelle Edberg, Sweden

• 19. Chris Gane, England

• 20. Alessandro Tadini, Italy

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