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Ken Borland

No fans at Joburg Open but lots of entertainment at Randpark the rest of the tim 0

Posted on November 07, 2020 by Ken

No spectators are going to be allowed at Randpark Golf Club when the prestigious Joburg Open is held there from November 19-22, but there will be plenty of entertainment for golf fans at the club both before and after that with the installation of the new InRange ball-tracking facility at their driving range.

InRange is a system designed by engineers in Stellenbosch who were global leaders in the field of tracking technology for radio telescopes and radar, who turned their attention to tracking the flight of golf balls. The result is not only a package that is used by leading professionals, golf clubs and coaches, but which also has tremendous entertainment value.

Golfers previously going through the motions on the driving range can now track each and every shot and can play under added pressure in the system’s game mode that allows multiple players to compete against each other in contests such as Longest Drive or Bullseye. With four buckets of balls costing less than R400 for a foursome, this sounds like great fun for a group of golfing mates.

The technology is also available on an app, allowing individuals to enjoy the experience at a cheaper cost.

But for the weekend of November 19-22, Randpark will become a place of national importance and closed to the public as the European Tour and their top international golfers arrive to participate in the Joburg Open. As Randpark GC chief executive Francois Swart explained, they simply cannot risk any Covid transmission occurring, especially with South Africa hosting the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and then the South African Open at Sun City on the following weekends.

“It’s very important that the safety protocols are adhered to and we have to manage the bubbles and ensure the safety of the players, not just for this tournament but for the next two as well. I think not having spectators is the better call and unfortunately not even our members will be allowed at the club. It’s the right call because it’s a big investment.

“The players are the ones who have the most risk and if any of them get exposed then they’re out for the rest of the tournaments as well. Not having spectators is normal practice at this time on the European Tour and they have had a lot of input because they have staged big tournaments already this year. They’ve given us valuable insights and I have all the confidence in the world that the Joburg Open will go off beautifully,” Swart told The Citizen.

Joburg Open to stand alone in Randpark biosecure commune 0

Posted on October 23, 2020 by Ken

The Joburg Open will return to being a standalone co-sanctioned tournament with the European Tour and will be held in a biosecure commune at Randpark Golf Club from November 19-22, the Sunshine Tour and the City of Joburg announced on Tuesday.

The Joburg Open was founded in 2007 and had one of the larger fields on the European Tour schedule, but in 2018 it was ‘nicked’ by the South African Open, with the two tournaments amalgamating into a 240-man mega-event hosted by Randpark’s two courses – Firethorn and Bushwillow. But now the events have been split again, with the SA Open due to be played after the Joburg Open, with Sunshine Tour commissioner Thomas Abt confirming it would not be held in Johannesburg this summer.

“The Joburg Open will have a field of 156 professionals, split between the Sunshine Tour and 70 from the European Tour, with everyone in a biobubble; golfers, caddies and essential staff will all be put in various local hotels and once in the bubble they cannot leave. They will have breakfast, lunch and dinner within the bubble. And they will be tested.

“They will be allowed to practise outside the bubble and there will be a pro-am, but all participants will need a negative Covid test before playing. There will be no spectators at the Joburg Open, but there will be a VIP facility in the Randpark clubhouse, which will be outside the bubble. These are some of the extensive safety measures in place, which includes isolation centres,” Abt said at Randpark on Tuesday.

The Joburg Open will be held the week after the Masters, but Abt is still hopeful that they will be able to get a top-class field for the co-sanctioned event.

“It’s impossible to know now what sort of regulations will be in place at the time of hosting the event, and we don’t have confirmation yet of which overseas players will be coming, but the European Tour have to fill those 70 spots and we have sent out a letter to our international golfing superstars requesting their support. There are no quarantine regulations in place, if a player has a Covid business visa and a negative test then he can arrive on the Monday and be in the tournament,” Abt said.

Hosting such an ambitious, massive event in this time of pandemic-induced change will put the tournament under the glare of public scrutiny, but City of Joburg executive mayor Geoffrey Makhubo stressed the benefits of putting on the tournament, which has prizemoney of R19.5 million, R2 million more than the SA Open held in January at the same venue.

“By separating this event from the SA Open, we will be able to promote the City of Joburg and mark our readiness to be open for tourism and business. Plus there are the potential new jobs the tournament will create. We recognise that Covid-19 is still a threat, but hosting the Joburg Open is an excellent opportunity to start returning to life as normal and golf has the green light from government.

“We want to save lives as well as livelihoods and the importance of golf to the tourism industry cannot be overstated. The tournament will also be staged in honour of struggle stalwart Andrew Mlangeni, who played in various Joburg Open pro-ams and attended as a guest several times. It is the first tournament we will host since he passed on,” Makhubo said.

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