Picture: 123RF/DEKLOFENAK
Picture: 123RF/DEKLOFENAK

The dark days of lockdown just will not recede, but the first rays of light on the Sunshine Tour will come with the return of the Joburg Open in November.

The co-sanctioned Sunshine Tour and European Tour event that tees off at Randpark Golf Club on November 19 and carries a prize money pot of R19.5m will mark the return of professional golf in SA.

It will be the first professional tournament in nine months after the easing of some Covid-19 restrictions.

The Joburg Open will return as a stand-alone tournament for the first time since 2017 when the City of Johannesburg agreed to support the Sunshine Tour and absorb the event into the SA Open for the duration of the latter’s hosting in Johannesburg. That agreement has ended.

Details of the SA Open will be announced later this week but new Sunshine Tour commissioner Thomas Abt confirmed on Tuesday it will not be in Johannesburg.

“The City of Joburg is taking the Joburg Open back. The SA Open will not be hosted at Randpark [Golf Club] this year or with the City of Joburg‚” said Abt.

He is expecting a strong field with almost half of the 156 competitors from the European Tour.

“The European Tour have to fill a field of 70. We have also sent out a letter to our international professional golfers that are Sunshine Tour members who play on the European Tour and the PGA requesting their support at the Joburg Open‚” said Abt.

Crucially‚ with the Masters being contested the week before‚ players do not have to got into quarantine but will have to live in a bubble for the week they are involved in the tournament.

There will be relief all round that professional golf‚ in particular the Joburg Open‚ is back.

The return of the tournament is not just an opportunity for professionals to earn a buck.

“Since the inception of this tournament in 2007‚ our vision has been that the Joburg Open must benefit all the residents of Johannesburg‚” said Geoffrey Makhubo‚ executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.

“Now more than ever‚ as our economy requires a boost after the Covid-19 lockdown and with our president publicly calling for a new business stimulus‚ the return of the Joburg Open is perfectly timed to contribute significantly towards this cause as it brings a major international event to our city once again‚” Makhubo said.

Selwyn Nathan‚ executive director of the Sunshine Tour, expressed his gratitude to those who got the sport back onto the tee box.

“Without their commitment and support we will not be sitting here today and we will probably still have about 60,000 people out of work‚” he said about the number of people employed in the industry.

The tournament has an impressive list of winners, with Charl Schwartzel‚ Branden Grace‚ George Coetzee‚ Andy Sullivan and Darren Fichardt all on the honours roll.

No spectators will be allowed at the 2020 event, which will also feature a ProAm.

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