The Tshwane Open will once again attract many of the European Tour’s rising stars when it is held from March 12-15, but this year, it will be hosted by the Pretoria Country Club in Waterkloof, the Sunshine Tour announced on Thursday.
Defending champion, Ross Fisher, currently second in the Race to Dubai order of merit, is expected to enter again, while the bulk of South Africa’s European Tour campaigners should also be there because there is no other tournament on their schedule that week.
Pretoria Country Club is a parklands course, a Gary Player design since 2004/5, set in scenic woodland in a pristine environment that attracts such notable bird species as Rose-ringed Parakeet, Black Cuckoo, Burchell’s Coucal, Crested Barbet, Gymnogene, Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Spotted Eagle Owl.
Sunshine Tour commissioner, Selwyn Nathan, stressed the importance of the event in providing a platform for up-and-coming stars, saying both the previous champions, Dawie van der Walt and Fisher, rose to prominence on the European Tour after their victories at Copperleaf, where the first two editions of the Tshwane Open were held.
The Tshwane Open is the last co-sanctioned event of the season in South Africa, signalling the end of the Summer Swing, which will pick up again in November when the beautiful pink petals of the Cape Chestnut trees will be making Pretoria Country Club even more beautiful than it already is.
Subesh Pillay, the MMC responsible for economic development and planning, said the Tshwane Metro were delighted to reinvest in the tournament because of the benefits it brought to the city.
“We took a bit of flak initially because many people asked why we are spending money on golf when there are backlogs in housing, electricity and water. But the decision was not taken lightly and we did it because of what the tournament meant for the city, because it added value.”
“Tourism is the biggest contributor to our economy and the Tshwane Open received coverage in 47 countries last year and it reached 217 million households. The global media coverage we received was worth $67 million and the direct impact to the city was R44.5 million. Plus, 202 temporary jobs were created by the tournament in 2014,” Pillay revealed at the launch at Pretoria Country Club.
Van der Walt, in particular, used the Tshwane Open to progress from a journeymen pro who had never won a tournament before to someone who now has two victories, plays in both Europe and the United States and has even made two appearances at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, courtesy of winning the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit in 2013.
Even for those who don’t end up winning the co-sanctioned event and the European Tour exemption that comes with it, there is prize money of 1.5 million euro – about R18 million – for them to fight over.