The addition of two new events to the local calendar has served as a massive boost for golf in South Africa.
The Eye of Africa PGA Championship was the centre piece of golf in SA this weekend, although in Cape Town, Lee-Anne Pace wrote her own headlines as she showed her mettle with a playoff win.
Matias Calderon then matched Pace’s final hole brilliance with a 40-foot putt to add his name to the list of foreign PGA Championship winners which include Tom Weiskopf (US), Hale Irwin (US), Corey Pavin (US), David Feherty (NIR), Tony Johnstone (Zimbabwe), Mark McNulty (Zim), Sven Struwer (Germany), Nick Price (Zim) and the last being Gregory Bourdy (France) in 2006.
Calderon will do well to match the likes of Irwin, Pavin and Price when he puts his clubs away one day.
For all the action on the course, there were two big announcements off it which grabbed my eye.
First, the Steyn City Championship; a 54-hole team event and then the big one, The Tour Championship at Serengeti.
It would be easy to be cynical and wonder why such announcements are made so late into the season or why a season-ending finale wasn’t in place from the start.
But in truth, there is a tremendous amount of money required to add new events to the schedule. The positives drawn from the announcements of the two events far, far outweighs any negative.
Everyone involved in making them happen should receive a hearty pat on the back, a Bells and one free mulligan (something that I am vehemently opposed to). The team event at Steyn City should be plenty of fun; team’s of two and three formats should make things interesting. Golf at the highest level definitely needs some fresh ideas and here’s one such event that provides it. Steyn City is one of the most spoken about venues and now gets its chance to showcase what is on offer.
My only criticism is that the teams will be drawn and not selected by the players themselves. There was such a vibe around the Zurich Classic when Jason Day chose Rickie Fowler, when Henrik Stenson chose Juston Rose, when Saffas Louis Oosthizen and Brendan Grace combined and the Koepka (Brooks and Chase) brothers signed up together with friends Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley uniting in search of a win (which evaded them).
The event won’t count towards the end of season money-list, therefor the drawn system misses a great chance for players to choose their own partners. It would be intriguing to see how allegiances would play out but now players are being forced together and that might diminish from the sparkle of the exciting format.
The Tour Championship at Serengeti is a major boost for local golf. And I really hope that weekend players and fans of the game get out there to watch and support. The hosts combined with local government have put their money on the line and deserve all the good exposure and benefits that come with that.
In the March issue of Compleat Golfer, I’ve tackled the declining ‘golf culture’ in South Africa where many people couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch and watch the action live. Let’s hope this trend starts being reversed starting with these new events. Golfers, take your kids out and enjoy the superb action in the sun. We need to instill the culture from a young age.
The event promises to be one to remember with the Serengeti Invitational Pro-Am running concurrently for three days before the pros battle it out alone on the final day. Celebs and amateurs will be joining the top 50 on the moneylist and every indication is that this championship will be a spectacular one.
There is so much to play for as well. The winner of the Order of Merit gets into The Open Championship and the Nedbank Golf Challenge, while the top two players, not otherwise exempt, gets into the 2019 WGC-Mexico.
Additionally, the leading two available players, not otherwise exempt in a higher category, gets into the WGC-HSBC Champions, and there are 10 spots up for grabs off the Order of Merit list for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour.
The event organizers have made a massive financial investment and take golf forward with a few massive leaps. The ball is now firmly in the public’s court – how will they respond?