The R&A and European Tour sponsor Rolex have stepped in with cash to help restart the European Challenge Tour’s schedule in 2021 and aid in “the continued development of the next generation of leading golfers”.
The satellite tour that is European golf’s “second division” will have no promotion to the main tour this season as a result of the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with cash at a premium across the European Tour’s operations it was feared the tour would simply not happen in 2020.
However the Challenge Tour will restart in Austria with two events worth €500,000 each in mid-July, and both the R&A – through their Covid-19 Support Fund – and main tour sponsor Rolex will contribute as the season progresses.
The R&A’s support comes from the £7 million package they announced last month to help golf deal with the impact of the pandemic. The governing body already pays and annual grant of £120,000 to the Challenge Tour as part of its developmental remit and an additional £300,000 will come from St Andrews in this new support.
Rolex has offered the repurpose the prizefund which would have been paid in their annual Rolex Trophy event on the Challenge Tour – one of the two biggest events on the circuit with Scot arc Warren a former winner – to benefit the wider schedule in 2020.
Jamie Hodges, Head of the Challenge Tour, said: “Both Rolex and The R&A are dedicated to supporting golf and their additional help this year is a fantastic gesture, which demonstrates their commitment to the development of our sport and the value they place on the role of the Challenge Tour in producing the stars of the future.
“The Challenge Tour has been a proven training ground for future European Tour winners, Major Champions and Ryder Cup stars since its inception in 1987.
“While there is no formal graduation to the European Tour this year, this funding will greatly help us in creating as many playing opportunities as possible in the circumstances this year, providing a platform for tomorrow’s champions to continue to gain vital experience and compete on the international stage.”
The European Tour has also secured their first partner for the UK Swing to re-launch after lockdown, the six events to be played behind closed doors at secure contained sites in England and Wales.
Loch Lomond Whiskies are to be “the Spirit of the Tour” with the independent single malt distillery’s hand sanitiser – they were one of the first to change production to assist with supplies at the outbreak of the pandemic – available on every tee during the UK Swing, which begins at the British Masters at Close House near Newcastle in July.
Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group, said: “The European Tour is one of the most internationally recognised and respected golf bodies in the world and we are delighted to become a key partner of the UK Swing.
“This new association further extends our already very successful association with the game of golf through our existing sponsorship agreement with The R&A for both The Open and The Women’s British Open and with The PGA and allows us to support the launch of the European Tour’s excellent “Golf for Good” initiative.”
“Golf For Good” will donate monies to local health charities at each of the venues the tour visits for the remainder of 2020.