The mayor began the Joburg Open, teeing off first in the Pro-Am four ball, which teams professional golfers with amateurs.
ABOUT 60 professional golfers teamed up with amateurs comprising politicians, business bigwigs and the like in the Joburg Open Pro-Am, which teed off early this morning.
Executive mayor Parks Tau tees off (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Executive mayor Parks Tau tees off (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)The Pro-Am is a precursor to the main event, which begins tomorrow.
As always, the lush lawns and fairways of the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club were meticulously manicured and the verdant parklands provided a serene ambience, with the clear blues skies perfect for a great day of golf.
The Pro-Am, which is by invitation only, is a four ball event, with teams made up of one professional golfer and three amateurs. The professionals teed off the championship markers and the amateurs from the club markers.
First to tee off was the executive mayor, Parks Tau, whose four ball comprised double Joburg Open champion Charl Schwartzel, the Sunshine Tour commissioner Selwyn Nathan and the chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke.
After putting at the second hole, Tau said he was impressed that the tournament had grown significantly since inception and that professionals were more enthusiastic about participating.
“The Joburg Open gives us an opportunity to showcase our facilities and position ourselves as a world-class golf hosting city with all the facilities that we have,” he said. “We continuously need to find ways to position the city as a destination for all sorts of sporting events.”
The 2012 Joburg Open is Tau’s first tournament as mayor. He said his game had been improving. Of his four ball, Tau said it was tough affair.
“But golf doesn’t have any guarantees so it is good; it depends on the way one plays. Charl as the professional is giving us a lot of advice, helping us to improve our respective games. I’m happy to be playing with Selwyn Nathan, the Sunshine Tour commissioner, and we are privileged that General Shoke was able to join us again this year,” he said.
2011 Joburg Open champion Charl Schwartzel2011 Joburg Open champion Charl Schwartzel (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of johannesburg)The mayor, who looked chirpy throughout, said his expectations of this year’s tournament included that it would grow in terms of viewership and audience levels and that more professionals would still be keen to participate.
“We are happy that Charl decided to come to the tournament. He even stated that he always looked forward to [it]. It is one of those tournaments that start the year,” Tau said.
Bongi Mokaba, the director of the Joburg’s events and marketing, said she expected a South African to win this year, but what excited her more about this year’s competition was that it had grown “bigger and better”.
“The demand we have of people wanting to play in the Pro-Am is a clear indication of how popular and how big the tournament has grown. But even the calibre of players we have shows that the tournament is growing.”
She noted that the infrastructure that had been put in place this year was bigger, and more public grandstands had been added to accommodate the growing public interest. “We’ve increased the public catering facility, we have a bigger public exhibition area and we have an additional putting green for people to keep themselves busy,” she explained.
Mokaba appeared psyched for her four ball, which comprised former City manager, Mavela Dlamini; Gareth Tindall, the commissioner of the Southern Africa PGA Tour; and the professional golfer, Jean Hugo.
Mokaba said she expected to do well. “We are all players of single digit handicaps so we will be able to complement each other and we’ve got the best professional. The weather is a big complement,” she said.
Director of events Bongi MokabaHoping to do well: Director of events and marketing Bongi Mokaba (Photo: Enoch lehung, City of Johannesburg)“For me, it is exciting to see how we’ve grown from 2007 where we didn’t have a single public grandstand to what it is today.”
The Joburg Open is a 72-hole stroke play championship, with 18 holes played on each of the four days. It tees off on Thursday, 12 January and ends four days later, on Sunday, 15 January. It is the sixth year of the Open, which has a total prize purse of €1,3-million (about R13-million) to be split between the first 70 winners.
It sets the pace for the 2011 golfing calendar, as it is a co-sanctioned Order of Merit event on the PGA European Tour and Sunshine Tour. It is the first tournament of the year on the European circuit to stake a claim towards the Race to Dubai event.
Entry is R30 a day or R80 for the entire tournament. Tickets are available at the gate. The tournament will be broadcast live on SuperSport on all four days. For tournament news, scores and photos, visit the official website.
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