South Africa will feature on the Challenge Tour International Schedule for the first time this season, with three new events in the African nation getting the 2020 season under way.
While the Limpopo Championship, which takes place from January 30 - February 2, will mark the Challenge Tour’s first foray to South Africa, the circuit has a rich history of nurturing the next generation of South African players.
We take a closer look at the stars who took their fledgling steps on the Challenge Tour.
Oosthuizen’s crowning moment may have come in 2010 when he clinched The Open Championship at the Home of Golf, but his journey to Major Champion started almost a decade earlier on the Challenge Tour.
After his Challenge Tour debut at the 2003 Zambia Open, the South African amassed five top five finishes in his maiden season, and while he narrowly finished outside the promotion places, earned his card at European Tour Qualifying School.
The first former Challenge Tour player to lift the Claret Jug, Oosthuizen is now renowned for his technically beautiful swing and to date, has won nine European Tour titles.
While Oosthuizen was the first former Challenge Tour player to win golf’s oldest Major, his countryman Trevor Immelmann was the first – and to date only – graduate to don the Green Jacket. Only the second South African after Gary Player to win the Masters Tournament when he triumphed in 2008, the Cape Town native graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2000, the same year he earned his maiden victory at the Tusker Kenya Open.
Immelman needed just a single year to make the step up to the European Tour and is yet to look back, becoming the first South African to successfully defend his native SA Open since Gary Player in 1976-77 when he achieved the feat in 2004.
Erik van Rooyen
Van Rooyen has consistently impressed since finishing third on the 2017 Challenge Tour Order of Merit after winning the lucrative Hainan Open. He excelled during his maiden European Tour season, with five top ten finishes seeing him earn the 2018 Graduate of the Year award. The 29-year-old clinched his breakthrough win at the 2019 Scandinavian Invitation, holding off the charge of Matthew Fitzpatrick and Henrik Stenson to secure his maiden European Tour title.
The South African has subsequently broken into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and only time will tell how far this Challenge Tour graduate will go.
Grace made it European Tour win number nine when he won on home soil at the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg earlier this month, his first victory for over two years.
Despite being a multiple European Tour winner, the 31-year-old is arguably best known for carding the lowest round in Major Championship history, a 62 at The 2017 Open Championship.
Grace played three seasons on the Challenge Tour between 2008 and 2011 before gaining his European Tour card at Qualifying School. He enjoyed a dream season the following year, winning on four occasions.
Stone played three seasons on the Challenge Tour before earning the 14th available card in the 2015 Challenge Tour Rankings. He quickly made the most of his European Tour berth, winning the SA Open in his second start of the 2016 season, before adding to his tally later in the year at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
However, his most dramatic win to date came at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, courtesy of a stunning final round of 60, narrowly missing a putt to card golf’s magic number.