Meet the 2019 Challenge Tour Graduates
ON A day of gut-wrenching drama, Francesco Laporta won the Challenge Tour Grand Final and in doing so ended the season as the 2019 Road to Mallorca Number One. He will now join the European Tour, along with 14 other hopefuls who now have the opportunity to live out their dreams alongside the likes of Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton.
The final round was suspended, testing everybody’s nerves to the limit but Laporta kept his cool, posting a level par round of 71 to win the Grand Final on six under par, two ahead of Sebastian Heisele and Robin Sciot-Siegrist, who shared second place on four under par.
It is Laporta’s second win in three starts after triumphing at the Hainan Open and he finished the season more than 50,000 points ahead of Scotland’s Calum Hill in second place.
“It feels unbelievable," Laporta said. "It hasn’t hit me yet. I came here just to fight for the Number One spot, and I fought really hard. I played some of my best golf of the year this week on a tough course in such a beautiful place under tough conditions. It was very windy all week, and rainy today. It feels great and I’m really happy about the week.
“It’s just a dream. Dreams come true. To put another Italian name on the board of Challenge Tour Number Ones with people like Edoardo Molinari and Andrea Pavan, I’m really happy about that.”
Richard Bland returns to the European Tour at the first time of asking by finishing third in the rankings, with Heisele’s tie for second place moving him up to fourth. A total of 15 players secured full playing privileges for the new European Tour season, which opens at the Hong Kong Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championship, which both take place from November 28 – December 1.
Adrian Meronk created a piece of history when he became the first Polish player to have full European Tour playing privileges after finishing fifth in the rankings, while Jack Senior and Robin Roussel finished sixth and seventh. Meronk, who achieved the most top-10s on the Challenge Tour in 2019 with 10, said: “It’s always been the goal since the beginning of my professional career to make it to the big league, and finally it’s done, it’s an amazing feeling. I’m very proud to be the first player from Poland to make the European Tour. It’s really hard to win on the Challenge Tour where the level is so high. There are a lot of really good players, so to get a win, to play so consistent all year, and to handle myself so well down the final tournaments, where I knew I needed to play well to make this week easier, is what I’m most proud of.”
Victories Early at the Challenge de España and Prague Golf Challenge earned Antoine Rozner eighth place, followed by Matthew Jordan in his rookie season, while Ricardo Santos, Cormac Sharvin and Oliver Farr finished in the next three spots. Rolex Trophy winner Darius van Driel and Connor Syme, who won the season-opener at the Turkish Airlines Challenge, cemented spots 13 and 14, and it was Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez who earned the final European Tour card by finishing in 15th position.
It turned out to dramatic end to the day for the Spaniard, who had rounds of 76 and 77 over the weekend and was forced to watch as Sciot-Siegrist miss a birdie putt on the final hole, before seeing Heisele par the last in the final group of the day. Had the German missed, Sciot-Siegrist would have finished second on his own and leapfrogged Garcia Rodriguez into the final graduation spot. The Frenchman was only 1,369 points behind Garcia Rodriguez and he was followed by Ben Stow and Wil Besseling, who finished 17th and 18th respectively.
2019 Challenge Tour Graduates
Francesco Laporta (Italy)
Calum Hill (Scotland)
Richard Bland (England)
Sebastian Heisele (Germany)
Adrian Meronk (Poland)
Jack Senior (England)
Robin Roussel (France)
Antoine Rozner (France)
Matthew Jordan (England)
Ricardo Santos (Portugal)
Cormac Sharvin (Northern Ireland)
Oliver Farr (Wales)
Darius van Driel (Netherlands)
Connor Syme (Scotland)
Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (Spain)
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