Tournament in jeopardy


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INLSAi

Employees of Contech, a Durban IT company, heeded the call to help clear the water at the Royal Durban Golf Club on Friday. Picture: Puri Devjee

The highest early summer rainfall for at least 13 years could end the e1 million Nelson Mandela Championship at Royal Durban Golf Club, without a ball having being struck.

The cry for helicopters, pumps, “super-soppers” or anything that could soak up the huge pools of water from the downpour went out this morning as officials of the Sunshine and European Tours and Royal Durban Golf Club scurried about in search of help.

Tournament officials abandoned the second day of play on Friday morning, and the contest has yet to start.

The midnight deluge on Thursday night added to the problems with rain.

“We are desperate, to say the least. We need help. We need pumps to drain the water off the course – the whole course is in a mess, said Peter De Villiers, general manager of Royal Durban.

“Helicopters or anything that can assist us to dry up the place would be welcome – that’s how desperate we are at the moment.”

Royal Durban Golf Club sent out an SMS distress signal to members mid-morning on Friday, appealing for any “labour, buckets and squeegies” to help save the tournament.

“Help is urgently needed otherwise the NMT is in total jeopardy,” read the SMS.

De Villiers confirmed that he had approached the eThekwini Municipality, which had huge motorised pumps to drain water.

“We are devastated. We looked forward to staging this event for many months and now this happens,” he said.

“While we have lost revenue from all angles – more so for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the club itself – we feel for the players who have travelled from all parts of the world to participate here this week. It’s sad, very sad.”

The championship is the first event on the 2013 European Tour calendar and the penultimate one of the 2012 Sunshine Tour.

Thursday’s tee-off was abandoned as the fairways of the 7th, 13th, 14th and 16th became unplayable even after the officials converted the holes into par-3s.

“The golf course is not even 1 percent ready to play [on Friday] after the storm [on Thursday] night,” said Theo Manyama, the co-director of the event.

“We’ve hired ‘super-soppers’ [on Friday] to help dry the course and we will try to get the course ready for [Saturday]. There are showers forecast for [Saturday] and Sunday, but we are trying everything we can to make a start [Saturday].

The hope, now, is to play 36 holes – half a tournament. According to the rules, this still constitutes a tournament.”


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