Last-chance saloon for Justin on Challenge Tour

October has been a frustrating kind of month for Justin Walters, but he has the chance to end it on a high as he tees off tomorrow in the Challenge Tour’s closer, the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in Italy.

He started the month with a share of sixth in the Allianz Open de Lyon, for his best finish since his third place in the Kärnten Golf Open in June. But he followed that with a missed cut in the D+D Real Czech Challenge Open and a share of 56th in the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Challenge last week.

The last two finishes saw him slip to 23rd on the Challenge Tour Rankings, and, with the top 20 on that list guaranteed places on next year’s European Tour, he needs to grasp the opportunity offered him by this season-ending tournament to get back inside that list of players.

Actually, his €56,108 in winnings sees him just €2,500 off 21st spot, held by Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik – and that’s significant because Magnus A Carlsson in fourth place has already secured a European Tour card via the Race to Dubai.

So the 21st spot in the Challenge Tour Rankings now provides the final entry place to European golf’s top table which Walters has so single-mindedly been pursuing in 20 tournaments on the Tour since the end of January.

In that time, he has secured five top-10 finishes and a further four inside the top 20, and that consistency has taken him to the brink of earning his European Tour card without having to battle his way through qualifying school.

He will want some of the quality of golf that took him into those positions when he plays in Italy this week, and the higher he finishes, the better. That’s because the Challenge Tour’s top 10 players at the season’s end are rewarded with a better category for the following year’s Race to Dubai, and a late climb into that section is a huge boost.

He will no doubt reflect on his achievements ahead of the tee-off tomorrow: He is one of 11 rookies who have made it into the 45-man field, and he is one of 14 players with five or more top-10 finishes on the 2012 Challenge Tour.

But in the end, he will have to do whatever it takes to get into 21st spot on that Challenge Tour Rankings list.

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