The Open, Zimbabwe’s premier golf competition, will still run under the banner of the Sunshine Tour. The Sunshine Tour is a men’s professional golf tour based in southern Africa.
Organisers are hoping to bankroll the Open to the tune of R2,5 million. It’s set to run between April 18 and 24 at the Royal Harare Golf Club in the capital.
The minimum prize money required by the Sunshine Tour is R1 million.
At a function last night, Internet service provider Africom was unveiled as the official sponsor of the tournament while Econet, Delta, Innscor and South African Airways are some of the partners.
The Open’s committee chairman Livingstone Gwata said the tournament would market Zimbabwe as a sport, business and tourism destination.
“The Zimbabwe Open will certainly assist in achieving this objective,” Gwata said. “It will be beamed across the continent via Supersport, and hopefully the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, in keeping with the coverage accorded to tournaments which are sanctioned by the Southern African Sunshine Tour.”
The Open was one of Zimbabwe’s premier sporting events before falling victim to the country’s deteriorating political and social environment.
It was first played in 1984 and was part of what was known as the Safari Tour, a collection of events in Africa that were played by professionals based on the European Tour during their winter. As a result, it became an event on the European-based Challenge tour in 1991, where it remained for two seasons before moving onto the FNB Summer Tour, which became the Southern Africa Tour and later the Sunshine Tour.
As it was held in the weeks preceding the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the tournament attracted some of the world’s leading players. They used it as warm-up to the big money invitational. Past winners include Fijian Vijay Singh and Zimbabwean greats Nick Price and Mark McNulty.
Price and now-naturalised Irishman McNulty are the most successful golfers in the history of the tournament, both men having recorded three victories.
A host of local and foreign professionals playing on the Sunshine Tour are expected to enter.
Carrying local hopes will be such men as Tongoona Charamba, Marc Cayeux, Mike Curtis, Ryan Cairns, Rob Saurombe, Sean Farrell among others.
Previous Zim Open Winners
1984-Anderson Rusike (Zim), 1985-Malcolm Mackenzie (England), 1986-Stephen Bennett (England), 1987-Gordon Brand (England), 1988- Roger Chapman (England), 1989-Vijay Singh (Fiji), 1990- Grant Turner (England), 1991-Keith Waters (England), 1992-Mark McNulty (Zim), 1993-Tony Johnstone (Zim), 1994- Chris Williams (England), 1995- Nick Price (Zim), 1996-Mark McNulty (Zim), 1997-Nick Price (Zim), 1998-Nick Price (Zim), 1999-Jean Hugo (SA), 2000-Mark McNulty (Zim), 2001-Darren Fichardt (SA). —