Sun City gets ready for the chal­lenge


IN four weeks’ time the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge will be un­der­way at Sun City.

It will be day two to­day of the tour­na­ment, which is now one of eight elite tour­na­ments with a min­i­mum prize fund of $7-mil­lion (about R94m) form­ing part of the Euro­pean Tour’s new Rolex Se­ries, be­ing played at the Gary Player Coun­try Club.

Un­til the first tee off time on Novem­ber 9 the course will be closed to the pub­lic, al­low­ing the staff at the club to get the par-72 lay­out and one of the best cour­ses in the coun­try, in prime con­di­tion for “Africa’s Ma­jor”. The last rounds were played there on Wed­nes­day and yes­ter­day.

Among the play­ers chas­ing the glory on Novem­ber 12 will be de­fend­ing cham­pion Alex Noren, 2008 cham­pion Hen­rik Sten­son, 2013 win­ner Thomas Bjorn and con­firmed South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Brandon Stone.

The 23-year-old Stone qual­i­fied af­ter win­ning the South African Tour Or­der of Merit, the sec­ond youngest man to do so af­ter Charl Schwartzel. This will be his sec­ond ap­pear­ance at Sun City af­ter de­but­ing last year.

“Ce­ment­ing my spot in the tour­na­ment is an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment,” he said.

“It’s nice to rep­re­sent your coun­try abroad but it’s even bet­ter rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try at home. As a South African player the sup­port you get there is al­ways great.”

Oosthuizen, with 13 ti­tles world­wide, will make his sev­enth ap­pear­ance at the tour­na­ment and is hop­ing to im­prove on his best fin­ish of fourth in 2012.

“I’m al­ways very ex­cited to tee it up at the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge and I can’t wait to tee it up again this year.

“Play­ing in front of a home crowd is al­ways fun and it all adds up to make this one of the best weeks on tour.”

Noren, who has been in sublime form over the last two years, reg­is­ter­ing wins at the BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship, Scot­tish Open, Euro­pean Mas­ters and Bri­tish Mas­ters, said, “Lift­ing the tro­phy in South Africa last year was the per­fect end to a mem­o­rable sea­son. I had tried to get into the event for many years so to win on my first ap­pear­ance was pretty spe­cial.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to re­turn­ing as de­fend­ing cham­pion. It’s a fan­tas­tic event which ob­vi­ously holds many great me­mories for me.”

Other Race to Dubai top 10 play­ers who could tee it up at Sun City in a few weeks’ time are Tommy Fleet­wood, Ser­gio Gar­cia, Rafa Cabr­era Bello, Ross Fisher and Francesco Moli­nari. Other big stars on the Euro­pean Tour South African fans are likely to see in­clude Tyrrell Hat­ton, Thomas Pi­eters, Matthew Fizt­patrick, Lee West­wood and lo­cal he­roes Bran­den Grace and Dy­lan Frit­telli.

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