Little Hoping To Go Long Way in JJB Sports Event
The European Challenge Tour's latest champion heads for Manchester this week intent on securing a permanent place on a global golfing stage. Sam Little's success in Italy means that victory in this week's JJB Sports North West Challenge at Marriott Worsley Park will virtually guarantee full European Tour playing rights for next season. "I'm now in the top 10 on the money list and I'll be doing everything I possibly can to ensure I'm still there at the end of the season," said the 29-year-old Englishman.
Little knows he will face a tough challenge for the £16,667 first prize available this week as top-flight golf returns to the Manchester area for the first occasion in 23 years. Many of the Challenge Tour's top guns and several of the new, young stars will be attempting to deny Little in the £100,000 event at Marriott Worsley Park.
Among them are Anton Haig, professional debutant and latest recruit to the ISM stable, who manage Ryder Cup stars Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Paul McGinley and Andrew Coltart. The 18-year-old South African is already acknowledged as one of the longest hitters and one of the most exciting players in the game. Also heading for Manchester is Charan Thethy, the 2003 Uganda Open champion and winner of more than 30 tournaments in a short but glittering career. The University of Texas graduate reached the top 100 in American collegiate golf before turning professional and is the current captain of the Kenya PGA.
Local interest will centre on Manchester's Jon Cheetham, who played in last week's Troon Open and is a former Manchester Evening News Manchester Open champion. "This is an important event for me because I need to improve my ranking," he said. Former England Boys player Martyn Hamer, son of former England international Steve, is attached to Marriott Worsley Park and hoping that his experience in a EuroPro Tour event earlier this year will help this time. "It will be great playing with such accomplished professionals," he said.
Several established European Tour players such as Royal Lytham's Paul Eales are also entered for what should be an exciting and enthralling four days. "This will be one of the Challenge Tour's best fields of the season and the chance for Manchester to become synonymous again with big-time golf," said Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler, managing director of event promoters ISM. Dave Whelan, chairman of JJB Sports, the No.1 sports retailer, believes his company is giving the area something it has craved for many a year. "We are delighted to be bringing the game back to the North West," he said.
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