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Ken Borland



Sun City ends era with increased crowds & enthusiastic sponsors 0

Posted on December 09, 2015 by Ken

 

Increased crowd figures and an enthusiastic response from the sponsors marked the end of an era at Sun City as the final 30-man Nedbank Golf Challenge was completed at the weekend.

Next year the tournament will shift away from the first weekend in December for the first time since its inception in 1981, moving to mid-November as it becomes the penultimate event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Finals Series and will be played with a 72-man field and an increase in prizemoney to reflect its more elite status.

But the traditional Nedbank Golf Challenge went out with a bang at Sun City over the weekend, Australian Marc Leishman’s comfortable victory being watched by hordes of people.

According to tournament director Alastair Roper, crowds steadily improved through the week. Thursday’s opening day was watched by a few hundred people less than usual, but then there was a 1.5% increase on Friday and the improvement over the weekend was apparent as 12.8% more people came through the gates on Saturday compared to last year, and 4.7% more on Sunday.

“Overall the crowd figures were better and I think that was largely related to the field, people felt it was very good and provided a diversity of golfers,” Roper told The Citizen on Monday.

“What also bodes well for the event as it heads into a new format is that there was even more enthusiasm from the sponsors, with a number of them saying they are going to have to double the size of their facilities for next year.”

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has always been a marker for the beginning of the Christmas holidays and an end-of-year bash for corporate South Africa, but that might change with the tournament starting on November 10.

“It is one of my fears that the crowds might not come, but we will only find out the impact on that once we experience the new date. Universities and schools will also be in the middle of exams. Already the European Tour are talking to the guys in Dubai to maybe have the Tour Championship a bit later, possibly moving into our old spot in the first week of December. There are problems with Thanksgiving, when a lot of Americans in the United Arab Emirates won’t be around to watch golf, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the dates will hopefully be massaged a bit,” Roper said.

“A lot of things will have to change because of the impact of having 72 players, there will have to be bigger facilities for them. Even the media centre needs to be looked at because there will be greater demands with it being the penultimate event on the Race to Dubai. I think we may have to use some properties close by for specific facilities like caddies’ accommodation,” Roper said.

 

This summer tradition will be almost unrecognisable 0

Posted on November 28, 2015 by Ken

 

The Nedbank Golf Challenge is almost as much of a summer tradition in South Africa as watermelon, mielies, Redchested Cuckoos calling “Piet-my-Vrou!” and cricket, but there will be a definite sense of the end of an era when the tournament starts at Sun City on Thursday.

The event that started in 1981 as the richest tournament in golf – the only one to offer a million dollars in prizemoney –had a field of just five invited contestants, before going to 10 the next year. There were eight golfers in 1987 and 1988 and the event had its traditional 12-man field from 1993 to 2012 (apart from 2003 when South Africa hosted the President’s Cup and both teams played), before becoming a 30-player tournament in 2013.

With the expansion came official European Tour status and more world ranking points, but still almost no Americans have visited Sun City in the last 10 years and there has almost been a feeling of Africa’s Major gradually sliding towards extinction in these vastly-different socio-economic times.

On the continent where human evolution began, it’s always been a case of adapt or die, and so it is welcome news that the Nedbank Golf Challenge will undergo a major change from next year.

For 34 years the tournament has been held in the first weekend of December, a harbinger almost of the festive season and a chance for corporate South Africa to have a year-end party. But now the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be a part of the European Tour’s prestigious and lucrative Finals Series, which has enhanced prizemoney and Race to Dubai points for the leading performers on tour that season, in November.

The fact that the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be the penultimate tournament on the calendar, starting on November 10, the week before the Tour Championship, the season finale in Dubai, raises hopes that some top-class golfers will once again visit South Africa.

At the end of the year, who knows, maybe even the likes of Rory McIlroy will be chasing points as he looks to defend his Race to Dubai crown.

I said a while ago that the Nedbank Golf Challenge’s best hope of survival would be to become a regular, albeit lucrative and prestigious, tournament on the European Tour schedule, and the other major change is that the field will now comprise 72 golfers.

The top 64 in the Race to Dubai standings will be invited, but there will still be space for the defending champion, the winner of the Sunshine Tour order of merit and six invited golfers, with Americans probably being the major target there.

A long time ago, Gary Player and Sol Kerzner had a dream to bring the world’s best golfers to South Africa and, with Nedbank staying on board and increasing their sponsorship to the extent that the prizemoney is now $7 million, the new era at Sun City will hopefully attract the cream of the crop, certainly in terms of European talent.

 

Sharks eager to start new era of success in 2016 – Gold 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

 

 

The Sharks will be eager to put a torrid 2015 behind them as they begin pre-season training for 2016, director of rugby Gary Gold saying they will be looking to start a new era of success for the KwaZulu-Natal side.

“Everyone’s had a good break so now we need to hit the ground running. I hope this young side will be energetic and enthusiastic, because I see this as a new era and I’m certainly excited, keen to put the last year behind us as quickly as possible,” Gold told The Citizen before the Sharks started their pre-season training on Tuesday.

Despite his optimism, Gold conceded that there would be no quick-fix solution to the problems that bedevilled the Sharks in 2015, which saw them finish 11th in Super Rugby and fifth in the Currie Cup.

“It’s very important to make it clear that we won’t be making any excuses, our performance simply wasn’t good enough, especially for a franchise as big as the Sharks. But an era was coming to an end, we lost a lot of stalwarts and it’s not ideal having four coaches in 18 months at the same time. Change hit us hard and we also had insurmountable injuries, but the bottom line is that the performance was poor,” Gold said.

While Gold is firmly in the camp that favours South African rugby moving forward towards a more free-flowing style, he says defence will be the focus in terms of their Super Rugby preparations.

“Of course I want us to be more of a threat with ball in hand, but defence is the foundation of every good team. I know it’s not romantic, but you learn a lot about a team by how hard they work for each other in defence. We were substantially better in the Currie Cup, our points difference of only -8 shows that, but we need to put pressure on the opposition through our defence.

“A lot of tries these days still come from turnovers, mistakes and poor kicks, and we need to try and force those through our defence. But we also need to be more clever and, strategically, to think more out of the box. Robert du Preez [the new assistant coach] also ticks a lot of boxes for us, he’s a hard taskmaster and there are no half-measures with him,” Gold said.

 



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