This month Compleat Golfer’s playing editor Brandon Stone addresses the issue of how we can return the Sunshine Tour to its former glories.
One of the many positives from my role as playing editor is that I’m getting to engage with readers and social media followers. Through this interaction it is apparent there is a great passion for this wonderful sport.
So, last month I asked this ‘community’ we are all building to let me know what you would like to read in this column. There were some fantastic ideas – and we will touch on them in the coming months – but one stood out from the rest. It came from Jake Roos, a top South African professional, who has played all over the world.
His question was simple: ‘Is there a way to get the big names of South African golf, like yourself, to play more in SA and accordingly grow the Sunshine Tour, or is there another way to grow our local Tour?’
Thanks for putting me on the spot, Jake! But, it’s a great discussion point. There are many theories on how to strengthen the Sunshine Tour, and I’ve come up with my insights into how to make it the powerhouse it once was. I’ve broken them down into three key pillars:
1. PROMOTE LOCAL PLAYERS
The Sunshine Tour does a fantastic job through itsi social media platforms, so let’s ensure it’s used to create local stars. There are such talented players on the Sunshine Tour, many of whom aren’t far away from breaking out on the global scale.
How do we help them take the next step, in terms of increasing public awareness of them? Television appearances would help immensely, especially on shows like Toks en Tjops – non-golf-specific programmes where you get to know more about the upcoming professional as a personality.
There’s also a tremendous amount of talent coming out of the Golf RSA programme. The Sunshine Tour and Golf RSA could be aligned, whereby the Tour gave a few invites to Golf RSA members for certain events, and in return the Golf RSA players agreed to participate in a certain number of events on the Sunshine Tour when they turn pro. My view is that this would help develop the young, talented players and it also helps ensure these ‘prodigies’ support the Tour that supported them.
2. CHANGE TOURNAMENT TRADITION
In most households in South Africa the biggest challenge on weekends is trying to rip the DStv remote out of the hands of the sports lover. Possession is nine-tenths of the law and there is so much live sport that viewers are spoilt for choice. Rugby, football, cricket, F1, cycling, MMA, racing, international golf … the package is awesome.
So, why ‘fight’ that competition? What if the Sunshine Tour moved its events to Monday to Wednesday competition days? These days are often reserved for replays and ‘old’ footage before we wait for the next weekend to arrive. How good would it be to have a live Sunshine Tour event on these quieter days?
3. ‘OVERSEAS’ PLAYERS’ BUY-IN
This is probably the biggest area the Sunshine Tour could improve on. The toughest thing for players on other Tours is their schedule. And when those players, myself included, are criticised for not playing in South Africa I find it unjustified. European-based golfers will play around 30 events in a season. That’s 30 weeks away from home, 30 weeks travelling the world and 30 weeks competing at the highest level. When these pros get the opportunity to come back home they want to spend that limited, quality time with friends and family, away from golf. So how do we convince these golfers to play more Sunshine Tour events?
The answer is communication. The Tour and those players making a living overseas need to get around a table and come up with a give-and-take solution
for the betterment of the local game.
The likelihood of golfers being able to play at winter Tour events is minimal, given it’s the European summer and it’s the busiest period of the year on that Tour. But if the players could come up with a way for a couple of them to participate in a few local tournaments here and there, making a sacrifice or two, thereby strengthening those fields, then attracting new sponsors and audiences would be easier than is the case now, surely? I’m not saying it will work, all I’m saying is it’s worth talking about.
The Sunshine Tour is an amazing Tour. It’s one myself and many other top players are extremely proud to be a part of and it’s in our DNA. There’s no doubt in my mind we can again make it the powerhouse it once was. But it will take hard work, good communication and the nurturing of the talent that consistently comes through the ranks. Let’s do it!
– Stone is a multiple European Tour winner, Olympian and playing editor of Compleat Golfer