Joburg Open in the time of Covid-19 a whole new ball game
JOHANNESBURG - ONE hundred and fifty-six players will vie this week for the honour of lifting the Joburg Open title, and although that championship battle will be the focus of the players and fans alike, the tournament organisers’ priority will be centred on ensuring the safety of all.
Covid-19 remains a threat, in spite of recent revelations that two vaccines have entered the final stages of testing and the gradual reopening of South Africa, and to ensure the health and well-being of the players, caddies and support staff this week at the Randpark Golf Club (RGC), the tournament will be played in a bio-bubble.
“This comprises an inner bubble consisting of the professional golfers, caddies and limited tournament staff,” explained tournament promoter Bongi Mokaba. “A second outer bubble of further support staff to the tournament will be placed in this second system.
“All players and staff will be accommodated in tournament accommodation at various hotels and (bed and breakfasts) within an 8km radius of the golf club, and will remain in the bio-bubble system, travelling only from their accommodation to the golf course for the duration of the tournament days,” Mokoba further explained.
“In addition, everyone involved in the Joburg Open will undergo daily on-site temperature and questionnaire screening at the medical testing hub checkpoint, prior to entering the golf facility.”
These precautions mean that the size of the field has been reduced for the first time in the history of the tournament, down from the usual 204 players.
The compliance strategy, meanwhile, further requires all players, particularly those arriving internationally, to produce a Covid-19 negative certificate not older than 72 hours upon arrival in the country. A second round of testing will then take place at the RGC with a four hour-waiting period for the results. Once tested negative, players and support staff will be allowed into the bio-bubble and a chance to compete in the European PGA co-sanctioned event.
Said Mokaba: “Since the country has decided to open up the economy, allowing businesses to trade and for sporting activities to continue, we face hosting this event during the global pandemic with some mixed emotions too.
“We are certainly charting new territories and it is heartening that the tournament is happening, but the flipside is that we have to pull it off while working under the constraints of very stringent Covid19 adherence protocols,” she said.
Even so, there is a building anticipation of the golf to come.
That emotion is also building in Mokaba, who sees the Joburg Open as a chance to return some normality to golf in the country and promote the city and the nation’s hosting prowess.
“Words fail me, but I am beyond excited for two reasons,” said Mokaba.
“Firstly, that we are back to supporting the Joburg Open after a two-year absence. Hosting this tournament under the City of Joburg municipality perfectly aligns with our agenda to position the city as an event destination of choice.
“Secondly, the fact that the Joburg Open is the first of three Sunshine Tour international golf tournaments to be played during the lowering of lockdown levels of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa in 2020 is another indescribable highlight for us.”