Since 1981, the Nedbank Golf Challenge has captivated the golf world with its mix of the greatest stars in the history of the game, an outstanding golf course, and an unrivalled entertainment offering.
The 40th-anniversary celebrations for this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, to be played at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City from 10-13 November, will seek to capture the incredible history of a tournament that changed world golf’s landscape on its rise to becoming a leading DP World Tour event and which has earned it the title of ‘Africa’s Major’.
Upon its debut in 1981, the Nedbank Golf Challenge was described by the world’s sports media as “the golfing coup of the century” as it offered golf’s first million-dollar purse to be contested by five of the world’s leading players in Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller.
Miller was crowned the inaugural champion following a playoff with a young Seve Ballesteros, and against the backdrop of the bold entertainment offering of the new Sun City resort, the championship Gary Player Country Club designed by Player, and a glittering array of celebrities including Sean Connery, Telly Savalas and James Hunt who made this the social occasion the tournament has remained.
Over the next decades, the Nedbank Golf Challenge would continue to evolve in every facet from its prize money to the size of its field, while always remaining at the forefront of tournament golf and attracting stars of the game from Nicklaus to Tiger Woods as well as an array of Major champions, world No 1s, and Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup stars.
The field grew from its initial five players to 10 and then later the 12 that it had for most of its history before expanding to its current field of 64 players.
The prize money also led to world standards for the game. From the $1-million in total prize money and $500,000 for the winner in 1981, to a $1m winner-takes-all prize when Ian Woosnam won in 1987, to $2m for the 2000 champion Ernie Els, and to its 2019 total purse of $7.5m with $2.5m for the champion, Tommy Fleetwood.
The tournament has a loyal following of sponsors led by Nedbank. This is the bank’s longest-running sponsorship, as first the official bank of the tournament and then as the title sponsor.
The Nedbank Golf Challenge has straddled the greatest eras in golf, from the dominance of Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Player and Tom Watson to the emergence of Woods, Rory McIlroy and the new generation of stars.
It has also featured some of the greatest moments in history – from the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981, to South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994, to the moment of silence in observance of the passing of Nelson Mandela in 2013.
The Nedbank Golf Challenge has entrenched its status as one of the greatest tournaments in world golf, and the 40th playing of ‘Africa’s Major’ will add to this incredible legacy.