Top SA golfers may snub home fans

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Osthuizen_Dunhill Getty Images South African golf fans would love to see more of Louis Oosthuizen and Co.

The Nelson Mandela Championship, one of two new events co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours in South Africa this summer, will be played at Royal Durban from December 6-9, and one would think that some of the world’s top professional golfers would be falling over themselves to be in the line-up.

I mean, here’s a tournament in honour of the great Madiba and, dates-wise, seemingly perfectly situated as it’s the week right after the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. Surely, the thinking among the players would be to make a fortnight of it and take in the Mandela event as well. Come to think of it, why not three in a row and complete the safari by including the Alfred Dunhill Championship at that fabulous bushveld venue, Leopard Creek, the following week (December 13-16)?

Sadly for the fans and the sponsors this isn’t the case. Louis Oosthuizen, for instance, is 12th in the world rankings and therefore – for the present at least – South Africa’s best golfer.

But when quizzed earlier this week about his playing plans for South Africa leading up to Christmas he said he was only looking at Sun City and Leopard Creek.

That means, unless he changes his mind, no Nelson Mandela Championship and also no South African Open (also co-sanctioned) at Serengeti from November 15-18, and no Cape Town Open (also a new event, at Royal Cape, but not co-sanctioned) either.

Oosthuizen’s case is not unique and there are going to be other top South Africans picking and choosing.

The problem (if one can call it a problem for the players) is that there are so many tournaments around the world, with purses far greater than the Mandela Championship, which offers €1-million (R11m) in prize-money, and the Alfred Dunhill Championship, where the money is €1,5m. This translates to about R15m which is a Sunshine Tour record .

But it can’t compare money-wise with the BMW Masters (October 25-28) and the WGC-HSBC Champions (November 1-4), both in China and both worth $7m (almost R60m). And the Barclays Singapore Open and the UBS Hong Kong Open, in November, also have bigger purses. Then there’s the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship from November 22-25 in Dubai where the pickings are a hefty $8m.

So Oosthuizen, who will play these events, speaks of a “hectic” schedule leading up to Christmas which is why he can only do two in South Africa. And I’m sure we’ll see a bit of him next February when South Africa host the Joburg Open, the Africa Open (in which he is the defending champion) and the Volvo Golf Champions. But is two enough before Christmas?

I’d like to put it on record that Louis is one of the nicest guys on tour. Louis is a humble man, courteous and a real gentleman. But I would also like to see both Louis and other prominent South Africans supporting our tour just a little bit more than they are. Yes, the money’s good out East, but the fans need you here. And, you know, winning at home does something for your soul and spirit. – Saturday Star


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