Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kazakhstan Open finds a new home

The lucrative Kazakhstan Open will have a new home when the fifth edition of the €400,000 event unfolds from September 17-20 over the Arnold Palmer-designed Zhailjau Golf Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Since its inception in 2005 the Kazakhstan Open, which carries the largest prize fund for a regular Challenge Tour event, has been played at Nurtau Golf Club, also situated just outside the capital city of Almaty. But in a sign that golf’s popularity is on the increase in the country, the championship course at Zhailjau Golf Resort has been chosen to take over the hosting of the event. Set beside a new residential development and luxury hotel, and in the shadow of the vast snowcapped Tien Shan mountain range, the Palmer Course Design Company layout will provide one of the more visually arresting spectacles on the Challenge Tour schedule.With any number of water hazards lying in wait to punish errant shots, the 7,197 yards, par 72 course should also provide a stern test for the Challenge Tour Membership. Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “The Kazakhstan Open is undoubtedly one of the most important tournaments on the Challenge Tour schedule, so it is essential that we find a course capable of staging it. The Zhailjau Golf Resort is certainly a fitting venue, and I have no doubt our Members will enjoy playing there. Any course which carries the great Arnold Palmer’s signature is sure to provide a true test. The Kazakhstan Open has developed and improved significantly over the past five years, and moving to a new course is an exciting stage in that process.” Nurtay Abykayev, President of the National Federation of Golf in Kazakhstan, said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed staging the Kazakhstan Open at Nurtau Golf Club, but the chance to move to Zhailjau Golf Resort should open up a new chapter in the development of the tournament. It is a great layout – tough, but fair – and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the players fare in September. We should thank the members for allowing us use of their fabulous course for what promises to be another great week. I am confident that the new venue will ensure the tournament continues to go from strength to strength.” To underline its importance, in each of the four years editions since Ireland’s Stephen Browne won the inaugural event, the Kazakhstan Open champion has progressed onto The European Tour at the end of the season. Gary Lockerbie’s victory last year helped the Englishman to third place in the final Challenge Tour Rankings which in turn secured him a return to The European Tour, where his highest finish this season was tied fourth in The Celtic Manor Wales Open, won by his fellow Challenge Tour graduate Jeppe Huldahl of Denmark.

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