S Africa to stage world`s richest event in 2012

Last Updated: Apr 13, 2011, 09:00 AM IST

Johannesburg: South Africa will stage the richest single tournament in the sport when it launches a new World Golf Championship (WGC) event next year, Sunshine Tour commissioner Gareth Tindall said on Tuesday.

The $10 million Tournament of Hope is to be held from 2012 to 2016. A precise date and a venue have yet to be decided.

"The awarding of this WGC event, which has the biggest prize money in professional golf, shows the rest of the world believe we have good stock and a good product here in South Africa," Tindall told a news conference.

The announcement comes after South African Charl Schwartzel`s U.S. Masters victory on Sunday and fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen`s British Open win last July.

The Tournament of Hope will be the second WGC event to be staged outside the United States next year, the other is the HSBC Champions in China.

"There is undoubtedly more respect now for international golfers and especially South Africans," Tindall added.

"The Federation of Tours began the World Golf Championships in 1987 but there is only one outside America. There`s no doubt the timing was critical, the opportunity won`t be there for us again.

"Never before have we had five players in line for the (2011) Presidents Cup team," said Tindall. "We had seven golfers at the Masters, which was the second most of any country behind the United States."

Tindall said the Tournament of Hope could be held at the end of 2012.

"There is a date that we`re hoping for in late November but it clashes with other big events," he said.

"This is without doubt the most significant milestone in the history of professional golf in South Africa plus we will be using it to create awareness for Aids and poverty, hence the name Tournament of Hope.

"We`re hoping there will be other events around the world at the same time, with World Aids Day on Dec. 1, linked to the same theme, whether they be cycle races or pop concerts or whatever. We want to use this golf tournament as a catalyst."

The Sunshine Tour chief said the Tournament of Hope signalled a shift in golfing power away from the U.S.

"We`re essentially starting a world tour. It had to come. Prize money is going up but golfers are playing less so the model had to change," said Tindall.

"Australia will certainly want to do what we`ve done and there`s no doubt we`ve done what Europe should have done.

"The power has swung to the internationals, for how long we don`t know, but we`ve managed to negotiate a really good deal. It might be a bit of payback for the U.S. Tour."

The new WGC event could mean a change of dates for the Sun City Challenge, a 12-man invitational tournament normally held late in the year.

"This will be something a lot bigger and better than the Sun City Challenge and they can either work with us or against us," said Tindall.

"It`s a fantastic opportunity for all parties to benefit. If they apply common sense there`s an opportunity for them to go back-to-back with the WGC event and have a much stronger field as a result."

Bureau Report