The legacy attached to the Joburg Open is the development of golf, particularly among previously disadvantaged people.
THE Joburg Open is not an elite tournament; rather, it is a way for all golfers to increase their rankings and compete on the same footing as some of the best in the world. This is the sentiment of Bongi Mokaba, the City’s director of events.
Director of events and marketing Bongi Mokaba take spart in the Pro-Am (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Director of events and marketing Bongi Mokaba takes part in the Pro-Am (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Mokaba says she envisions a Joburg Open with more sponsors. “With additional sponsorship this will be the best tournament in the country. With all our resources and partners we are working on making it the best organised tournament in the country.”
Preparations to host a popular golf tournament like the Joburg Open takes about eight months. It effectively begins in April of each year, after reports on the previous tournament have been submitted to the mayoral committee. Mokaba says that because of its recent success, the City has extended the contract to host the tournament from 2013 until 2015.
The Joburg Open is the first tournament of the year on the European circuit to stake a claim towards the Race to Dubai and is held annually during the first two weeks of the year. This year was its sixth year. It is a co-sanctioned Order of Merit event on the PGA European and Sunshine tours.
Mokaba says that having run the tournament for that many years is a surreal feeling. “When I recall 2007, the Royal was not as big, it did not even look like this. Today we have a VIP marquee that can take up to 400 people and more grandstands. The number of tickets we are selling is bigger than we’ve sold in previous years,” she explains.
The Alex Driving RangeThe Alex Driving Range“The spectators, caddies and players are commending the work we’ve done and that makes me happy because we are doing it for them.”
She rebuffs the notion that golf is an elitist sport and that the Joburg Open is only for a select group. “I need people to begin to look at this tournament differently, to say it is not an elite tournament, it is a tournament that makes room for each and every person.”
As a lasting legacy of the Open, she would like the City to develop more golf driving ranges and to partner with communities where there are existing ones, to consolidate the development of golf in Johannesburg.
“We need to get to a point where we develop the driving range we’ve put in Alexandra. There has to be additional facilities like an office, ablution facilities and a system where the facility is managed. Currently, is it only maintained and we are solely dependent on golfers from Alex who are coaching the kids. But we need to put in additional infrastructure where they can store their clubs, come and register and be able to play on any day, not only on weekends.”
Through the development programmes that run concurrently with the tournament, including the coaching clinics held each year, she says, youngsters are exposed to various career opportunities available in golf.
Central Gauteng Golf Union
In addition, the City has partnered with the Central Gauteng Golf Union to develop prospective young golfers and include them in the tournament. Through that partnership, the City sponsored three amateurs to participate in this year’s tournament, two from the Soweto Country Club and one from the Wanderers Golf Club.
Amateur golfers like Sipho Bujela get a chance toAmateur golfers like Sipho Bujela get a chance to rub shoulders with professional golfers (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Mokaba says the amateurs who are selected to take part show that with proper training and nurturing, young golfers can prove their mettle. “The field is full of young talent. The Joburg Open takes pride in being a tournament that gives young golfers an opportunity to expose themselves. It is on this platform that these young boys are cutting their teeth and making a name for themselves.”
Before taking the decision to host an annual golf tournament, the City identified strategic sporting codes that it would support and promote in an attempt to make various sporting codes accessible to even the previously disadvantaged.
“When you see these guys beginning to prove their worth in the game it proves that the strategic decision the City took is beginning to pay off. We hope they will make their names also in the world through playing golf,” Mokaba says.
However, it is not always all glamour and success. She says the biggest limitation in organising the tournament is sponsorship. “If we had more sponsors pulling money out of their pockets, the Joburg Open would be the biggest golf tournament in the country.
“Lack of sponsorship is a big limitation and the inclement weather is an additional stress.”
One reason the Joburg Open isn’t attracting big names such as Tiger Woods is that it is reluctant to pay appearance fees, because it lacks major sponsorship, she says.
Mokaba envisions a Joburg Open with more sponsors and big names.
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