Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Large prize fund on the Challenge Tour

The 2009 Kazakhstan Open, to be played at Nurtau Golf Club in Almaty from September 17-20, will carry the largest prize fund in European Challenge Tour history with €450,000 on offer to the field, an increase of €20,000 from last year. The Kazakhstan Open thus continues its proud tradition of having carried the largest prize fund on the Challenge Tour Schedule in each year since its inception in 2005, when the purse was €250,000. Indeed, the size of the prize is such that in all four years since that inaugural event the winner has progressed onto The European Tour, with last year’s champion Gary Lockerbie of England following in the footsteps of Sweden’s Leif Westerberg, Wales’s Mark Pilkington and Ireland’s Stephen Browne, who triumphed in 2007, 2006 and 2005 respectively. The event has also helped launch the career of rising star Martin Kaymer, who finished in a tie for third at the 2006 Kazakhstan Open. His cheque for €18,000 helped Kaymer to fourth place in the final Challenge Tour Rankings that year and the young German has since taken The European Tour by storm, winning the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and the BMW International Open in his homeland en route to eighth place on the 2008 Order of Merit. Similarly, top 12 finishes at the 2005 Kazakhstan Open helped England’s Ross Fisher and Argentina’s Andres Romero secure graduation from the Challenge Tour and, like Kaymer, both men have since become European Tour champions. This year, the tournament again returns to the stunning Nurtau Golf Club which is widely considered to be one of the leading courses on the Challenge Tour Schedule and capable of hosting future European Tour events. At 7,319 yards it is certainly one of the longest, whilst the Tien-Shen (or “heavenly celestial”) mountain range which forms the backdrop lends itself to some spectacular views. Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “It is a mark of the strength of the Kazakhstan Open that this year’s prize fund has again increased, despite the current economic climate. It is also testament to the hard work and commitment shown by the Kazakhstan Golf Federation and promoters Parallel Media Group, whose determination to make the Kazakhstan Open one of the major events on the Challenge Tour Schedule always makes for a tremendous week. “I fully expect this year’s event to be to be just as successful and well received as the previous four, as our Members always look forward to the challenge that the magnificent Nurtau Golf Club presents.” Konstantin Lifanov, Director of Nurtau Golf Club, said: “We are delighted to host the fifth edition of the Kazakhstan Open, which continues to go from strength to strength. It is always nice to hear the players compliment the efforts our greenkeeping staff put in to ensure the course is in the best possible condition for the tournament, and we are again confident of providing a venue worthy of the occasion in September.” Nurtay Abykayev, President of the National Federation of Golf in Kazakhstan, said: “It gives us great pleasure to present this tournament again, which over the years has played an important role in promoting golf in our country. Kazakhstan is a proud nation and we are very pleased with the positive feedback we receive from the players and everyone involved, which shows just how successful the event has become. “Our relationship with the Challenge Tour, which is already strong, grows by the year. We feel we have come a long way since the first Kazakhstan Open in 2005, and I am confident we can improve even more in the years to come.”

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