Durban – The second Nelson Mandela Championship at Mount Edgecombe has been moved forward a day so as not to clash with the former president’s state funeral next Sunday. The tournament will now start on Wednesday and finish on Saturday.
There were genuine fears that the tournament was in jeopardy, but Saturday’s confirmation that the funeral is on Sunday has allowed the event to be rescheduled.
The European Tour event, which raises money for and the profile of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, has endured a tough start.
Last year’s inaugural event, held at Royal Durban Golf Club, was hit by torrential rain, reducing it to a pitch and putt contest.
Scotland’s Scott Jamieson won the soggy affair, but organisers and Durban’s strong golfing community have been looking forward to a proper tournament, featuring some of Europe’s up and coming stars.
Though the full field is yet to be confirmed, there may well be a few players who make the short flight from Sun City and add the coastal tournament to their schedule, especially as it helps bids for Ryder Cup slots.
Jamieson will be back to defend his title and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who is enjoying a stunning debut at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, is also likely to be in the field.
Inevitably, there will be a strong South African flavour and they will all be looking to keep the title at home in honour of the late former president.
Mount Edgecombe’s director of golf, Phil Simmons, said this week that they couldn’t wait to welcome some of Europe’s finest players.
“The course is in immaculate condition. We’re certainly ready for the tournament. The greens are running immaculately, and we just can’t wait to get started,” Simmons said.
The Mount Edgecombe Course One layout is not overly long by tour standards, but its greatest defence is the subtle wind changes that are synonymous with coastal courses, as well as the crucial angles of approach that one only learns by spending time on the course.
“There will be a lot of interest in how the players approach the course, because it can be very tricky in places,” said Simmons.
Of particular interest will be the short par-four fifth hole. Previously a downhill par-five, it was shortened due to the high number of balls that found their way into the adjacent shopping centre’s car park.
Now it plays as a teasing two-shotter, which some of the big hitters may be tempted to have a dart at, depending on the wind.
“It’s such a small target, and with water all-round, I can’t see the guys taking the risk. But that’s half of the fun of hosting an event like this,” Simmons opined.
“We will analyse all the scores, from the pro-am on Tuesday, and then right through the tournament, and then look at how we should be stroking our holes. It promises to be an exciting week.”
Simmons acknowledged that the tournament was part of a bigger picture, and added that Mount Edgecombe was proud to be associated with the legacy of Nelson Mandela, and would do their best to salute the late president with a first-class event.