"WE CAN'T blame Jan van Riebeeck for the status quo", thus addressed City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor, Herman Mashaba.
The Mayor was addressing stakeholders, community representatives, media and members of the Soweto Country Club pending the launch, at the same venue, of the 2018 edition of the Joburg Open golf tournament – as well as the long-awaited announcement of the refurbishment of the Pimville-located golf course.
Putting his prepared speech aside and opting to speak from his heart, the city’s foremost Councillor who self-teasingly recalled how he was referred to as an “accidental mayor” by political opponents, committed to everyone present that, “next year this time, we’ll be sitting in one of the best golf courses in the country.”
Speaking at will at a business occasion described by the club’s vice-president, Roger Skidow as a good day that the Lord had made, Mashaba, sans stressing too fine a point to it, expressed how the SCC meant a lot to him whilst declaring being impressed of the state of the course from the last time he was there earlier in the year when it hosted the Pro Am and going on to thank the community of taking ownership of it.
A good day, like Skidow had alluded in his invocation of a biblical line, it indeed was given what was on the agenda – which included the Joburg Open making South African history with its accrual of a new tri-sanctioned status which will henceforth see it incorporating the local Sunshine Tour, the European and Asian Tours – as well as the refurbishment of the Soweto Country Club slated to commence at the end of this year, overseen by World Golf Hall of Famer, Gary Player.
Back in 2015 pending his birthday celebration held at the SCC, Player had undertaken to redesigning the course at no cost, and it appears he is about to make good on his promise as, as revealed by Sunshine Tour executive director, Selwyn Nathan from a text which came in whilst the mayor was delivering his keynote address – the Black Knight’s senior designer was heading for a two-day site visit the Monday following from the announcement, to ensure the re-design was properly captured for tender to golf course contractors.
Reading and sounding literally like music to the hammer, anvil and stirrup, the mooted course of development entail new fairways, bunkers, tee boxes, greens and an irrigation system.
Nathan announced that initial funding has been sourced from the Sunshine and European Tours, in addition to various partners and sponsors such as the City of Joburg, Telkom, Supersport, Investec, Dimension Data and PWC.
Designed, as it currently stands, by Player, the refurbishment of the golf course forms part of the overall upgrade of the SCC, which is already in a advanced stage, with the building of a new clubhouse, a new practice, facility, a conference centre, a new halfway house and a fence which has been constructed along two boundaries of the golf course.
The work currently in progress includes the building of a wall along the south boundary of the course, the refurbishment of an existing storage facility into a fully operational pro shop and a South African Golf Development Board Andrew Mlangeni Academy.
Impetus was injected into the project when the City of Johannesburg hosted a Mayoral golf day where all of the proceeds were donated to its refurbishing.
With a new date and venue on the Sunshine Tour this year, the Joburg Open will make history as it becomes the first tri-sanctioned golf tournament on South African soil.
Flush with a purse of R16,5 million, Nathan announced that it will be played at Randpark Golf Club over two courses from 7 – 10 December under the auspices of the Sunshine, European and Asian Tours.
Erstwhile Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen has already confirmed his participation, as it marks a new era in its history.
The tourney will once again form part of the Open Championship’s International Qualifying – whereby three spots into the Major for the leading three finishers in the top 10 who are not already exempt – are offered.
It will also serve as the penultimate event on the Asian Tour schedule and will be crucial in the race for the Order of Merit title.
Pointed out Nathan, “The strength of the Sunshine Tour has always been the excellent relationships we have with the other major tours of the world and this allows us to keep creating opportunities for our members and global value for our sponsors.”
The field for the December Open will consist of 240 pros, including 30 Asian Tour members, four amateur invites – with the remainder shared between the European and Sunshine Tours.
Welcoming the growth of the tournament, European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley, offered: “We have strong relationships with both the Sunshine Tour and the Asian Tour and this is another opportunity to showcase how this can be used to drive golf forward in the region and to ensure a stronger product that benefits all.
We have had tremendous success tri-sanctioning with both tours before this, and so we look forward to building on this with a tournament which will form an integral part of the exciting opening to our 2018 schedule. We sincerely thank the City of Joburg for its continued support of this event.”
Delighted to welcome the Joburg Open on the Asian Tour schedule, its CE Josh Burack gushed: “On behalf of our talented members, we are proud to sanction the Joburg Open for the first time in the tournament’s history.
We have a strong partnership with the Sunshine Tour and European Tour and we will continue to work together to develop the game around the globe. We are excited to add the Joburg Open on our robust schedule and the presence of the Asian Tour in 18 different countries this season shows the appeal and growth of the Tour.”
Mashaba, on his part said that the changes reflected the Joburg Open’s original strategy to keep positioning the city to a global audience.
“We are thrilled to welcome on board the Asian Tour and excited at the new markets this affords us in terms of coverage of the Joburg Open.
Our aim from the start with this tournament was to showcase all that Johannesburg has to offer, and to now include Asia in this, is a big step forward for us”, he summed it all up.