Uihlein headlines start of Challenge Tour season
Peter Uihlein and Rhys Davies are among the main attractions as the 2013 European Challenge Tour gets under way in India this week. They tee it up in the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in Ahmedabad in the hope of acquiring one of 15 cards at the end of the season for the main European Tour.
Both players have ample Challenge Tour experience to succeed. Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion, spent last year on Europe’s junior circuit. The former Oklahoma State player competed in 15 tournaments and finished 26th on the money list. Expect Uihlein to play slightly more tournaments this year.
Davies begins this season on Europe’s junior circuit after losing his card on the main tour last year. Davies has had a hard time ever since winning the 2011 Trophee Hassan II on the main tour. The former East Tennessee State and Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup player defeated Louis Oosthuizen down the stretch in Morocco. However, while Oosthuizen has gone on to major glory and into the world top 5, Davies finished 121st on last year’s main tour.
Davies knows all about the Challenge Tour. He placed fourth on the 2009 Challenge Tour money list to earn playing rights for the main tour.
Aside from Uihlein and Davies, the key runners are the usual mix of good players not long out of the amateur ranks, young professionals who perhaps should have made it to the main European Tour and a handful of veterans fighting to regain status.
Scotland’s Raymond Russell begins his 20th year as a professional trying to find a way back to the main tour. The 40-year-old came close to earning his main-tour card last year through the Challenge Tour. He finished 22nd on the money list, just two places short.
Russell won the 1996 French Open and placed fourth in the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He has the experience to perform well enough to get one of the 15 cards.
England’s Philip Archer is another 40-year-old trying to make a comeback. He has three Challenge Tour wins, including victory in last year’s Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic. That victory helped him to 25th on the money list.
India’s Shiv Kapur, who has nearly 200 starts on the main tour, and former PGA champion Rich Beem are other experienced campaigners teeing it up.
Italy’s Andrea Pavan starts in India with a real chance of winning the Challenge Tour money list. Pavan spent his college days at Texas A&M and hasn’t quite come of age yet. He placed second on the 2011 Challenge Tour money list to earn a card for the main tour last year. However, he managed only 158th on the money list. Another season in the junior circuit might do him the world of good.
Other Walker Cup players aside from Davies, Uihlein and Russell include Wallace Booth (2009), former amateur World No. 1 Jamie Moul (2007), Steven O’Hara (2001), Robert Dinwiddie (2005) and Sam Hutsby (2009).
This year’s Challenge Tour is set for 31 events across the globe. Aside from India, the junior circuit will play in Kenya, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Oman and regular venues in Europe.