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Challenge Tour season starts in Costa Rica

The 2003 European Challenge Tour, which will comprise 27 events in 21 countries, gets going this week when it makes its first visit to Costa Rica.

The Costa Rica Open, starting on Thursday at the Cariari Country Club in San Jose, is one of seven new tournaments on this year's schedule, the European Tour announced on Monday.

Two other events in Latin America will be making a debut on this season's Tour, which will be stopping in Mallorca and Wales for the first time and also features new tournaments in Austria and France.

The Costa Rica Open, the first of three events co-sanctioned with the Tour de las Americas, will be followed by the Abierto de Guatemala from February 6 to 9 and the Los Encinos Open in Mexico from February 13 to 16.

After three stops in Africa and one in Madeira, the tour will switch to mainland Europe for the rest of the season, starting with the Tessali Open in Italy from May 8 to 11.

The Aa St Omer Open, to be played in France from June 12 to 15, and Russian Open, to be staged at Moscow Country Club from August 14 to 17, have both been upgraded and will also count for the European Tour order of merit.

The season will end with the traditional Challenge Tour Grand Final at Golf du Medoc in France from October 23 to 26, after which the leading 15 players in the money list will graduate to the European Tour in 2004.

The Challenge Tour is effectively a breeding ground for the main European Tour, and offers regular tournament golf for players who have not yet gained full or qualified playing privileges on the continent's flagship tour.

"In an uncertain environment, the Challenge Tour can still produce an attractive schedule for its members, both in terms of opportunity and incentive," said tour director Alain de Soultrait in a statement.

"We are delighted to be visiting so many new countries to take up the challenge of new venues."


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