The European Challenge Tour will emerge from lockdown with two tournaments in Austria in July – both co-sanctioned with the main tour as the circuit continues to attempt to rescue the main part of its schedule lost to the coronavirus.
The Austrian Open at Diamond Country Club, from July 9-12, will re-start the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca after a five month pause. It will be followed by the Euram Bank Open at Golf Club Adamstal, which remains in its original slot on the calendar but now begins a day earlier, taking place from Wednesday July 15 to Saturday July 18.
Both tournaments will have prize funds of €500,000 and will be dual-ranking events with the European Tour, which resumes a week later at the Betfred British Masters Hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House in Northumberland from July 22-25.
The decision to hold two events the week before the main tour gets restarted on UK soil would suggest the tour remains confident that the current 14-day quarantine for visitors from outside UK borders will be relaxed by the middle of next month.
Scotland’s Calum Hill is the defending champion at the Euram Bank Open, one of the Perthshire player’s two victories in 2019 on the Challenge Tour circuit.
Jamie Hodges, Head of the Challenge Tour, said: “We are pleased to announce the resumption of the Challenge Tour season with the Austrian Open at Diamond Country Club and the Euram Bank Open at Golf Club Adamstal, two dual ranking events which will take place in consecutive weeks in July.
“Our measured approach to the 2020 season has mirrored that of the European Tour and we have been informed each step of the way by our Medical Health Strategy, led by our Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Murray, aligned to individual government safety advice.
“Part of this strategy is to play, wherever possible, in clusters in one territory and we are therefore grateful to the Austrian Golf Federation and the two venues, Diamond Country Club and Golf Club Adamstal for their support in making these events happen.
“We will continue to be guided by the European Tour’s Medical Health Strategy and we will announce details of subsequent 2020 Challenge Tour events in due course.”
Austria came out of lockdown in mid-May, and as yet had not experienced any further major outbreaks – latest figures on new cases of the virus amounted to just 31 at the weekend. The country re-opened its borders to 20 countries last week, but visitors from the UK are presently still prohibited.
Austria is also the country that will resume F1’s calendar, with two successive races on July 5.
Ben Cowen, the European Tour’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer, said: “These two dual ranking events provide vital playing opportunities for our members following the enforced period of inactivity since March.
“We are therefore grateful to both Diamond Country Club and Golf Club Adamstal, as well as the Austrian Golf Federation, for their support and we look forward to visiting Austria ahead of the European Tour’s full resumption with the Betfred British Masters at Close House the following week.”
Dr. Peter Enzinger, President of the Austrian Golf Federation, said: “Especially in these unprecedented times, it is a great sign and a well-earned accomplishment for golf in Austria, that the European Tour and Challenge Tour will restart their seasons after this enforced break with two events on Austrian soil.
“With so much time pressure it was not easy to accomplish, but the co-operation with the European Tour and the Austrian Ministry of Sports during this preparation process has been outstanding and successful.”
The Challenge Tour’s resumption will be five months after Christian Bezuidenhout won the Dimension Data Pro-Am to conclude three consecutive weeks in South Africa at the start of the 2020 Challenge Tour season.
The Tour’s full return begins at the Betfred British Masters at Close House, which launches a six-week UK swing, alongside the English Open at the Marriott Forest of Arden, the English Championship at Marriott Hanbury Manor, the Celtic Classic and the Wales Open at The Celtic Manor Resort and the UK Championship at The Belfry.