This month Compleat Golfer’s playing editor talks about the recent additions to the calendar that will give Sunshine Tour golfers more chances to excel.
There was some exciting news for us professionals towards the end of 2019 which opens another door of opportunity for South Africa’s Sunshine Tour golfers.
The Tour is tough, let’s not dispute that, and over the years it has been a conveyor belt of success stories. As the old line goes, ‘If you can win on the Sunshine Tour, you can win anywhere.’
So, towards the end of last year we were informed that the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour had come together to create three new co-sanctioned events – the Limpopo Championship, Cape Town Open and Dimension Data Pro-Am.
This news received overwhelming support from many Europeans and the locker room was abuzz with talk of being able to escape the northern hemisphere winter and come to South Africa for three tournaments. They would not only be given the opportunity to experience our wonderful country during summer, but also have the chance to play alongside some of the Sunshine Tour’s best.
There was delight especially for the South Africans, because this move is another opportunity for them to earn playing rights outside this country. And, given the strength, or should that be the weakness, of the rand, the increase in prize money also helps put a bigger smile on the players’ faces.
However, as with anything in life, where there is opportunity there is also a challenge. That is why the Challenge Tour is so aptly named. The European Challenge Tour is one of the toughest Tours on the planet. And while the prize money on offer – some $300 000 a week, which equates to around R4.9-million – sounds like a game-changer, when you factor in the expenses, reality quickly sets in.
Most weeks, players without a caddie run up a tab of around €1 500, about R25 000. This is because players travel all over the world, not just continental Europe. While this may help them accumulate a decent amount of air miles, a pretty heavy price tag is attached. Hotels, food and rental cars only add to the pile of receipts collected over the season.
And since the prize funds are around 10% of the European Tour’s, and with the travel costs to compete on both
Tours almost identical, it only adds to the stress of trying to cover your expenses.
The standard of golf is high. But it’s the fight and grit of the professionals playing on the circuit that makes it so tough. These guys all have aspirations of playing on the European Tour one day and will do whatever it takes to get there. Which is similar to how our players on the Sunshine Tour are wired. And that’s why these events are such a blessing to the Sunshine Tour as they have given our boys something they all need – opportunities, plain and simple.
There is an incredible amount of class and talent walking the fairways of the Sunshine Tour. That will come through at these events. We saw JC Ritchie win the Limpopo Championship at Euphoria Golf Estate and Garrick Higgo come close at the Cape Town Open at Royal Cape.
Who knows, maybe a large group of our players can perform and get a good number of points on the Challenge Tour Road to Mallorca. This year there are 25 European Tour cards up for grabs, which means there’s a strong possibility some South Africans will add to the list of Challenge Tour graduates.
That list includes the likes of Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and yours truly. I for one am extremely excited at the prospect of having even more South African flags flying on the European Tour leaderboard.
Follow Compleat Golfer’s playing editor on Twitter @BrandonMStone and on Instagram at @brandonmstone.