Lifestyle | 09 Nov 2018 | By Michael Vlismas

A constant evolution of excellence

Final Round of the 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player | Photo by Grant Leversha

The history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player is one of a tournament that immediately set a benchmark for excellence on its debut in 1981, and which ever since has constantly evolved to keep it at the forefront of world golf.

But throughout this constant evolution has been an unwavering commitment by Sun International to provide the stage upon which the Nedbank Golf Challenge can keep growing and expanding its global influence in the game.

“With our partners Nedbank we have been able to maintain a consistency in growth for the Nedbank Golf Challenge into various new eras. As Sun International we are incredibly proud that Sun City has always been globally recognized as the home of one of the biggest tournaments in world golf,” said Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive of Sun International.

The inaugural Nedbank Golf Challenge ushered in golf’s first million-dollar purse to be contested by only five players. The winner, Johnny Miller, received $500 000.

The tournament grew from an initial five-man field to 10 in the early Eighties and with sizeable payouts down to even the last-place finisher.

In 1987, the event raised the bar again when Ian Woosnam won the first winner-takes-all $1-million cheque for his victory at Sun City that year.

In 2000, the tournament went through another major restructuring of its prizemoney when it celebrated the new millennium by offering a $2-million first prize to the winner. Ernie Els took the title that year after a playoff with Lee Westwood.

The 2003 Nedbank Golf Challenge capitalised on a wealth of international players in South Africa for the Presidents Cup that year and expanded the field to 18 players. First place that year was worth $1.2-million.

In 2004, the field reverted to a 12-man format, and the next few years saw a heavier weighting of the prizemoney for second and third place as well as last place to the point that the runner-up in 2012 received $660 000.

The 2006 the tournament offered Official World Golf Ranking points for the first time.

In 2013 the Nedbank Golf Challenge entered a new era in which it formed part of the European Tour’s international schedule, and with the field increased to 30 players competing for a total of $6.5-million.

In 2015, “Africa’s Major” took up a place as part of the European Tour’s elite Final Series on the Race to Dubai, and which has since become known as the Rolex Series, making it one of the most exclusive and lucrative events on the Tour and as the penultimate event before the season ending DP World Tour Championship.

The field was also increased to 72 players, the largest in its history.

In recognizing the significance of the tournament’s growth into a Rolex Series event, Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer and Director of International Policy for The European Tour, said, “The addition of such a prestigious tournament as the Nedbank Golf Challenge to our Rolex Series not only enhances the Series itself, but also increases the excitement and anticipation of golf fans across the world.”

“On behalf of The European Tour, I want to place on record our sincere thanks to sponsors Nedbank and our hosts Sun International for supporting this vision and commitment to the global game.”

For sponsors Nedbank, the enhanced status of the Nedbank Golf Challenge was applauded as arguably the most exciting new era in the tournament’s history.

“The Nedbank Golf Challenge is the longest-running sponsorship in the bank’s history and is deserving of its place as the flagship event on the South African golf calendar. The tournament enables us to inspire local golfers and showcase South Africa and South African golf to the world. Through ongoing innovation the tournament has evolved into one of the premier golf tournaments in world golf. This marks a significant next chapter as we move into perhaps the most exciting time in the history of this event with the Nedbank Golf Challenge now positioned the week before the final tournament on the Race to Dubai,” said Mike Brown, Nedbank Chief Executive.