Four British Amateur champions, 12 Walker Cup players, six European Tour winners and former college standouts tee it up in this week’s $613,000 Barclays Kenya Open, the first event of the 2018 European Challenge Tour. They’re chasing cards for the 2019 European Tour.
Kenya marks the start of a 33-tournament schedule culminating in the Challenge Tour Grand Final in November. The top 15 on the 2018 money list graduate to the 2019 European Tour.
Approximately $115,000 should be enough to gain one of those cards. Scotland’s Bradley Neil earned just under that figure last year to take the 15th card. Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen finished No. 1 with about $260,000.
The Kenya Open has the equal highest prize fund along with the Foshan Open in China in October. This week’s champion will earn nearly $100,000, an excellent start towards main tour status.
Henrik Stenson, Thomas Bjorn, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose used the Challenge Tour as a stepping stone to European Tour glory. Whether anyone from the class of 2018 joins them remains to be seen. There’s certainly no shortage of talent.
British Amateur champions Romain Langasque (2015), Garrick Porteous (2013), Reinier Saxton (2008) and Michael Hoey (2001) are in the field. Porteous and Hoey played in the Walker Cup, and are joined by recent fellow Walker Cuppers Connor Syme, Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Grant Forrest, Cormac Sharvin, Jack Senior and Tom Lewis, among others.
Lewis is a European Tour winner, having won the 2011 Portugal Masters. He’s still trying to find a permanent home on the European Tour. France’s Gary Stal was talked about as a potential Ryder Cup player when he won the 2015 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, yet he’s teeing it up in Kenya.
Vanderbilt alum Matthias Schwab takes his place in the field. Schwab has been talked about as a potential star since finishing runner-up in the 2012 British Amateur. He’s one of a number of ex-college players along with former East Tennessee State player Adrian Meronk of Poland.
How many of the above will be smiling when the race concludes on November 4?