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Ken Borland

Roper has theory for lack of SA success at Sun City

Posted on February 01, 2015 by Ken

Englishman Danny Willett’s impressive triumph at the Nedbank Golf Challenge over the weekend means it is now seven years since a South African won the prestigious title at Sun City, and tournament director Alastair Roper has an interesting theory why.

Trevor Immelman won the 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge by one stroke from Justin Rose but since then the best South African finishes have been runners-up slots for Tim Clark (2010) and Charl Schwartzel (2012).

This year it was a trio of Englishmen – Willett, Ross Fisher and Luke Donald – who dominated at the Gary Player Country Club.

Sun City is obviously one of the favourite tourist destinations of South Africans and, being at the end of the year, there is a general holiday vibe around the complex. The South Africans in the field inevitably have an entourage of friends and family joining them at the tournament.

“It’s a pity none of the South Africans showed up, it would have been really nice if Charl or Louis [Oosthuizen] had been up there with the Englishmen on Sunday. Just generally, in the last 18 months/two years, South African performances on the world tours have been sub-standard, so it’s partly a form thing that none have won at Sun City.

“Maybe it’s just a lean period, but something else bothers me and that is that there may be too many distractions for the South African golfers. I remember for many years [8] Ernie Els was trying to win here and it bothered me the number of distractions he had.

“At the South African Open or the Alfred Dunhill, there’s not as much of a demand on their time. Here, all their friends want to be with them and they’re asking for tickets, for access and when they can have dinner together. A guy like Willett was here with his caddy, his wife and maybe one friend,” Roper told The Citizen on Monday.

Roper said the increase in the size of the field from 12 to 30 had led to a similar rise in interest in the tournament.

“I was always the biggest skeptic about going to 30, I was very confident that 12 was the right way to go. But last year it surprised me what a positive reaction we had from the sponsors and we’re getting that same feeling again. More players and more golf is what they want to see.”

That has translated into the number of corporate hospitality suites – the lifeblood of the tournament – rising to 35 and including a diversity of sponsors.

“We want a demand for those facilities, that’s key to the success of the tournament, it’s built around hospitality, and those sponsors continue to be happy. We’ve had more this year in terms of numbers of sponsors and it’s been a whole different bunch of sponsors as well,” Roper said.

The tournament director said there had been little change in the number of spectators attending the event, with just over 60 000 coming over the four days, while the reach of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on television – showcasing Sun City as a tourism destination – continues to grow.


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