Golf | 25 Feb 2019 | By Michael Vlismas

Sun City celebrates 40th anniversary with major changes for ‘Africa’s Major’

As the host of one of South African sport’s most iconic events, Sun City will this year celebrate its 40th anniversary with a Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player, partnership that has been renewed for a further three years and which forms part of groundbreaking changes made by the European Tour.

Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive of Sun International, has announced that the partnership between Nedbank, the European Tour and Sun International for “Africa’s Major” has been renewed until 2021.

The announcement coincides with the European Tour’s significant changes to its season-finale on the Rolex Series, including the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Golf Challenge and then the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

The winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player and to be played at the Gary Player Country Club from 14-17 November, will this year take home US$2.5 million and an increased haul of Race to Dubai points.

The new first-place cheque for the Nedbank Golf Challenge is a substantial increase on the US$1.25 million won by England’s Lee Westwood for his 2018 victory. The overall prize fund for the tournament will remain the same at US$7.5 million, with the balance of the field playing for a US$5 million prize fund: i.e. the runner-up will receive prize money based on a US$5 million event. A further incentive for the world’s leading professionals to make the trip to Sun City at the end of this year is that the Race to Dubai points have increased from 7 500 to 10 000.

The season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, to be played at Jumeirah Golf Estates from 21-24 November 2019, will now offer the richest first prize in world golf as the winner pockets a cheque for US$3 million (an increase from US$1.33 million). The Race to Dubai points on offer will also increase from 8 000 to 12 000.

And the winner of the Turkish Airlines Open the week before the Nedbank Golf Challenge will now go home with US$2 million (an increase from US$1.16 million), while the Race to Dubai points here have increased from 7 000 to 9 000.

The 2019 Nedbank Golf Challenge will also feature a new field size of 60 players. The field sizes of the final three tournaments of the season will feature a progressive reduction, with the leading 70 players from the Race to Dubai playing in Turkey, then the leading 60 thereafter progressing to South Africa, and the leading 50 finally lining up in Dubai.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the changes made by the European Tour and the continuation of our longstanding partnership with Nedbank and the European Tour. These relationships are key to the continued growth of ‘Africa’s Major’ and its status as one of the premier tournaments on the Tour. We look forward to once again hosting the sponsors, fans and players at our amazing resort Sun City in its 40th year since opening,” said Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive, Sun International.

Mike Brown, Chief Executive, Nedbank Group, also expressed his delight at the continuation of their partnership at such an exciting time for the tournament, and which in 2020 will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

“We are thrilled to extend our partnership with the European Tour and Sun International for another three years until 2021. The Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, ‘Africa’s Major’, is an iconic event and one of the best corporate hospitality and live experiences on the African continent. It is a great platform for South Africa to showcase our beautiful country to the rest of the world and for Nedbank to demonstrate our brand essence of using our financial expertise to do good for individuals, families, businesses and society.”

Sun City’s 40th anniversary also represents the 40th anniversary of Soho (the old Sun City Hotel) as well as one of the world’s most renowned golf courses in the Gary Player Country Club, and which itself is a major source of pride for its designer and legendary golfer Gary Player.

“The evolution of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since we first started the Million Dollar Challenge decades ago has been simply spectacular to witness. I am delighted to host an event that will continue to put South Africa on the map, not only as a superb golfing country, but for our overall tourism too. This obviously would not be possible without the support of the European Tour, Nedbank, Sun International, Rolex and all our sponsors. On behalf of all our fans we express our sincere gratitude,” said Player.

The final change announced by the European Tour is in relation to the Bonus Pool which is distributed at the end of the season. It will now be divided amongst the top five players on the Race to Dubai instead of the top 10 with the 2019 winner claiming US$2 million, up from the US$1.25 million claimed by Francesco Molinari last year.