Robert Foley and Marco Iten move up to Challenge Tour

Castanea Resort Championship2021 813 Stefan Heigl

With a second place finish in the last Pro Golf Tour tournament of the season, the neo-professional Robert Foley also secured second place in the season standings and promotion to the 2022 Challenge Tour. Marco Iten slips back to sixth place in the annual standings, but will also be eligible to start on the Challenge Tour next season.

The Pro Golf Tour returned to the Castanea Golf Resort in Adendorf (Lower Saxony) this week for the season finale as per tradition. Since 2015, the series of this third level tour has always ended in the L√ľneburg Heath, where from Monday to Wednesday on the 6175-metre par-71 course, the players fought for a record prize money of 50,000 euros and above all for important points in the fight for a top-5 or at least a top-10 rank in the annual ranking.

In "normal" years, at the end of the season, the top 5 of each of the four Satellite Tours (or Third Level Tours) advance to the Challenge Tour, where they are classified in category 13b and thus have the opportunity to play an almost complete season on the Challenge Tour. As there is no Qualifying School on the European Tour this year due to COVID and players from the Satellite Tours therefore have no chance to qualify for the European Tour or even for the Challenge Tour, the Challenge Tour officials have decided to give another five players from each Satellite Tour the opportunity to advance: the players ranked 6th to 10th in the final 2021 Pro Golf Tour Rankings will therefore receive Category 20 on the Challenge Tour in the 2022 season.

Foley misses second win in play-off

Three Swiss players still had hopes for promotion tickets before this season finale. Robert Foley from Lausanne and Marco Iten from Zurich had started this last tournament from ranks 4 (Foley) and 5 (Iten) of the Order of Merit. Luca Galliano, in twelfth place in the intermediate ranking, was still hoping for a top-10 finish. All three waived their participation in the Swiss Challenge last week at Golf Saint Apollinaire in favour of this season finale. For two of them, this decision at least partially paid off.

Robert Foley, who only turned professional in the summer and after his first victory (as an amateur) on the Pro Golf Tour, showed himself in top condition in Lower Saxony. Starting the tournament with a card of 69, he moved up to second place in the intermediate rankings on the second day with four birdies, one eagle and one bogey (total of 66 strokes). On the final day, the 24-year-old was able to draw level with leader Timo Vahlenkamp with a round of 67, but lost to the German in the play-off for the tournament victory. The second place in the L√ľneburg Heath puts the Lausanne player in second place in the season standings and thus firmly on the Challenge Tour 2022. "I just played really good golf this week. The difference was that my competitor holed a 10-metre putt for birdie on the sixth extra hole," said Foley after the tournament ended. Now he is looking forward to 2022: "I can't wait to prove myself on the Challenge Tour."

Bitter for Iten and Galliano

Things went less well for Marco Iten - who would probably have benefited most from a victory by his compatriot Robert Foley. The man from Zurich was only able to stay below the course standard on the second day in Lower Saxony and finished in 51st place with 75, 70 and 75 strokes. The 31-year-old was overtaken in the Order of Merit by tournament winner Vahlenkamp, who moved up 16 places in the annual ranking, and slipped back to the ungrateful sixth place. "It's bitter to be knocked out of fifth place in the annual rankings by a 6-hole play-off," Iten said disappointedly on Wednesday evening. "I didn't play well this week, also struggled with my neck again and can't work with my body the way I really want to at the moment." Now, he said, he will first try to get his health problems under control and then see how the preparation goes in the winter. Marco Iten will play on the Challenge Tour in 2022, but much less frequently than the top 5 on the Order of Merit.

The 35-year-old Luca Galliano also struggled unhappily in the season finale. Starting with four birdies on the front nine on Monday, he signed for a 67 on the first day. The chances were good that he would still make it into the top 10 in the annual standings. With rounds of 72 and 77 strokes on the following two days, the Ticino native fell back to 37th place in the tournament. Three days before his 36th birthday, he had to bury the dream of advancing to the Challenge Tour as 13th in the annual ranking.

Order of Merit

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Photo (from left to right): Timo Vahlenkamp, Tomas Gouveia, Mathieu Decottignies, Robert Foley | Pro Golf Tour