One of South Africa's newest European Tour winners, Brandon Stone, has revealed that life on the Challenge Tour provides an excellent grounding for young players after he broke through on golf's top tier at the BMW SA Open last month.
Stone, 22, had a superb season on the 2015 Challenge Tour, culminating in a sixth place finish at the year-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Muscat, which helped him clinch his playing rights on The European Tour for 2016. Fast forward two months and he was victorious on home soil as he wrapped up his maiden European Tour title with a two-shot win over Christiaan Bezuidenhout at Glendower GC.
Stone, who posted six top tens on the Challenge Tour last year to end the season 14th on the Road to Oman Rankings, said:
"I think the NBO event becoming the Challenge Tour's Grand Final made it a special occasion. I'd played in Oman before and done pretty well, finishing in a share of fourth place in 2013, so it was nice to feel I'd achieved my goal in Muscat in November when I needed a good finish to earn my card.
"I've always liked the Greg Norman-designed golf course and I liked Oman and the people there. The hospitality is great and it's a well-run event. I felt comfortable in the surroundings out there and I think it showed in my performance. The golf course is designed with the wind in mind and when it gets gusty it can be a real challenge.
"I think the Challenge Tour is an extremely difficult Tour to do well on because there are so many good players and so many guys trying to get their playing privileges for the following season.
"The guys who did get their cards at Almouj Golf played great golf for the whole season but there were some players who played really well and didn't make it. That shows you just how tough it is, so for me to be one of those lucky few who did earn their card felt very special.
"There's a lot of good young players coming through and I think we're going to see more and more quality players competing on the Challenge Tour in the coming years and they're going to be pushing the top players on The European Tour for years to come."