The 2016 Sunshine Tour sanctioned Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open tees off with a pre-tournament qualifier at the country’s world class golf facility, Royal Harare, tomorrow.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Going into its seventh year since the auspicious return to the Sunshine Tour, the Zimbabwe Open will see 156 professionals competing for the ultimate prize in an event whose purse amounts to R1,8 million.
Tomorrow, 80 golfers will be vying for the remaining eight slots for the championship stage which begins this Thursday and concludes on Sunday.
In an interview with Standardsport, the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open Tournament director Michael Mahachi confirmed that all was in place for yet another successful hosting of the tournament.
“We have concluded all the necessary preparations in terms of logistics as well as the technical [side], which has to do with the golf course. The tournament gets underway on Monday with a pre-tournament qualifier that will seal the remaining slot for the championship,” he said.
“Given the economic hardships that we are facing as a country, I think we have managed to maintain the high standard of the event which we like to see grow to become a world-class tournament in future. Currently the Zim Open is like The Masters of the Sunshine Tour in terms of how it is organised and the pros on the tour can attest to that.”
Since 2010 South Africans have dominated the event maintaining a perfect record. One of the pretournament favourites J’be Kruger has won the Zimbabwe Open twice, in 2010 and in 2014.
Theunis Spangenberg, Chris Swanepoel and Jake Roos won in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, while Zimbabwean-born Dean Burmester is the defending champion after winning it last year.
The last local to win the Zimbabwe Open was Mark McNulty back in 2000 and hopes are high a local will finally win the event this time around.
“This year is interesting because we have young Scott Vincent who turned pro last year. He has had an opportunity to play on the PGA Tour as an amateur in the US and recently finished fourth on the Eye of Africa PGA Tour in South Africa. In him, we have a player who is capable of winning it for us,”Mahachi said.
The Zimbabwe Open arguably has the strongest field this year compared to the past years, with defending champion Burmester who is now ranked in the top 100 as favourite. Top players such as Richard Sterne, Keith Horne, Kruger, Dylan Fritelli and Jean Hugo will all be battling for the honours
Zimbabwe will also pin its hopes on Ryan Cairns, Tongo Charamba, Dale Howie, Gary Thompson and Brian Gondo, among others.