Oliver Bekker showed great dedication to the cause and he was rewarded with 2022 European Tour card on Sunday as he finished the Challenge Tour’s Grand Final at T-Golf & Country Club in Mallorca in seventh place.
That put the icing on the cake of a season that encompassed 20 tournaments from the Limpopo Open back in April to the Grand Final where he never looked likely to slip from his position in the top 10 of the Challenge Tour rankings. And with the top 20 players gaining their playing privileges, it was mission accomplished for the soon-to-be 37-year-old.
Even after he carded a third-round two-over 73 in Mallorca, he was able to keep things together with a closing level-par 71 which put him one place higher to seventh on the Challenge Tour rankings.
He finished on five-under for the week, three shots behind the winner Marcus Helligkilde of Denmark. The Dane not only won the tournament, but also ascended to the top of the rankings after he held off Frenchmen Julien Brun and Frederic Lacroix as well as Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia and Germany’s Yannick Paul by one stroke. Helligkilde replaced Spain’s Santiago Tarrio at the summit of the rankings.
One place ahead of Bekker on the leaderboard was JC Ritchie, who closed with a one-over 72. Despite a victory in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open in his Challenge Tour season, he was not able to be as consistent as Bekker, and finished in an agonising 24th place on the Challenge Tour rankings. That was after a five-place climb thanks to his Grand Final performance, but he will perhaps rue being unable to make birdie on the final hole of the tournament, the par-five 18th. Had he done so, he would in all likelihood have made it into the top 20.
Wilco Nienaber was similarly agonisingly close to winning his card. He finished in 21st place, having finished the Grand Final in a share of eighth. And, unlike the others, he didn’t have a lengthy Challenge Tour campaign, playing in just five tournaments, including the last one. Like Ritchie, he will be able to look back on just a single hole – the eighth – in the final round as being the cause of missing out on his card. He made bogey there in an otherwise flawless closing round of three-under 68.
Hennie du Plessis stayed in 28th place on the rankings after he finished on one-under for the tournament in a share of 18th, while Jacques Blaauw slipped to 38th on the list with his share of 36th on six-over.