THERE was both wind and a windfall at yesterday’s action-filled Africa Open Golf Challenge.
There was talk the date of the multi-million rand European Tour- sanctioned event could be shifted by a day next year to allow the big names of South African and international golf to play.
Efforts to move the event one day back will allow the professionals to also take part in the WCC Accenture matchplay in the USA, which starts a day earlier than normal tournaments.
The financial reward of having the big names of golf teeing off in Buffalo City is expected to give further impetus to an already-highly successful Eastern Cape sports happening.
The hoped-for schedule shift will allow for past champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel and well as top-ranked Branden Grace and Richard Sterne to take part.
However, Africa Open spokeswoman Lali Stander said the matter was under discussion and no decision had been made yet.
The Africa Open is worth about R30-million in local branding, and has an international media exposure value of just over a billion rand.
Meanwhile, a stiff and steady north-easterly wind continued to test and torture the superbly branded, world-televised event at the East London Golf Club, much to the delight and frustration of the 78 golfers who made it to the final round.
Brandon Pieters fluffed a chip from the bunker on the last 18th hole and tossed his sandblaster to the ground before screwing his putt, which brought a stifled smile to the face of feisty official scorekeeper, Diane Wilkins.
She is one of 36 wives of local golfers belonging to the Nomads Club, who sit in pairs at the 18 holes taking down and communicating scores as they happen.
“I’ve seen a lot of that!” she said.
Wilkons and scoring partner Andria Venter said the wind was dessicating their skins and they sucked winegums to keep their mouths from drying out too.
Wilkins, who was also on the organising committee of the popular Discovery Surfers’ Challenge co-ordinated by her husband Neville on Saturday, said she was exhausted.
“We love our husbands so much that we sit here the whole day,” the women said.
Pieters, however, was good natured on the way back to the VIP tent, saying: “It was tough out there. I need a drink!”
However, Wallie Coetzee, the resident professional at Humansdorp Swartenbos Country Club, said starting at the bottom of the final field meant teeing off in sublime light winds early in the morning. He was hoping his 68 final round score will push him a further 35 places and leave him at about 40th position.
He said two fans were waiting at the first hole at 7am and followed him and Jaco Ahlers around the entire course, clapping and cheering.
Coetzee praised the event for its excellent organisation and player support.
“What a test of golf! You had to think and focus on every shot. You had to just grind and grind away.”
Betting between players themselves on who would win was fast and furious.
Mike Ritchie and Brannon Howard, of Addx Marketing, said Thurday’s wind hit 72km/h and knocked down seven 3m x 1m fairway boards, bending 25mm steel legs and destroying five boards.
They were on the alert for more damage yesterday.
Riana Liebenberg, production manager in charge of a rented 40- metre high hydraulic crane used as a radio frequency tower for repeater towers on the course, said they brought it down to half-mast yesterday and to the ground on Thursday, in accordance with their safety certificate conditions.
Queenstown Golf Club members, retired school principal Sipho Twaku, and bottling plant account development manager Thami Tamsanqa, said: “It is windy and it is fantastic! These pros are playing right through the wind, especially the South Africans. “
The pair praised the organisers for giving the Buffalo City and Eastern Cape economy a lift.
Ravi Manikum, of Trojan Security, which is in charge of security for corporate guests, said this was their best of the six Africa Open events.
“Golf is a humble game. People don’t come here to fight. They come to see professionalism. It is going smoothly, like a good whisky.”
Richard Pilkington, manager of the Alpha board at the entrance to the club, was busy updating the scores as they came in. — email@example.com