Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 11/18 -

Ken Payet is the new tour­na­ment di­rec­tor at Ned­bank Chal­lenge.

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i‘m as ex­pe­ri­enced as any­one in terms of work­ing at the tour­na­ment, hav­ing been in­volved in many past events when I was a golf di­rec­tor at the re­sort, and it’s good to be back at Sun City. It’s a year since I was ap­pointed as Op­er­a­tions Man­ager for Sports and Re­cre­ation. There’s sad­ness in my ap­point­ment as tour­na­ment di­rec­tor though. Dan Sevel, who had the po­si­tion last year for the first time be­fore his tragic death in July, was the per­son who re­quested that I be con­sid­ered for the op­er­a­tions role. ● ● ● be­ing tour­na­ment di­rec­tor is very re­ward­ing, but you’re al­ways on edge lead­ing up to the Ned­bank Chal­lenge, mostly hop­ing that rain clouds will build up and the Gary Player course can get a good soak­ing.The course is al­ways dry at the end of win­ter, and the weather is hot, not a good com­bi­na­tion when pre­par­ing for a tour­na­ment. Good rains will give us the su­perb con­di­tion­ing we de­sire. ● ● ●

work­ing at sun city in the 1990s with the ex­clu­sive 12-man tour­na­ment fields, we knew well in ad­vance the names of the play­ers who were com­pet­ing, and ac­cord­ingly we could market them eas­ier. Now, with a 72-man field, we have a few stars con­firmed, like Rory and Ser­gio who signed early con­tracts to play, but be­ing a Euro­pean Tour event the clos­ing date for en­tries is on Oc­to­ber 30. Only then will we know who all will be at Sun City. ● ● ● Our tour­na­ment host gary player has a big role in the prepa­ra­tion, and this year he’s in­sisted on build­ing some new back tees to lengthen the chal­lenge.The most no­table one is at the 18th, and from there this par 4 mea­sures 474 me­tres. But we are also help­ing the play­ers in other ar­eas. On those holes where the fair­ways cam­ber awk­wardly and de­flect balls to­wards trou­ble – and I’m re­fer­ring to Nos 2, 5, 15 and 17 – we have widened the fair­ways to give the play­ers a chance of keep­ing their ball on the short grass. ● ● ●

i’m not the first tour­na­ment di­rec­tor to be work­ing and based at Sun City, rather than an ex­ec­u­tive from Sun In­ter­na­tional head of­fice. Mike Leemhuis did the job when he was at the re­sort. Mike was around when I first started here in 1993 as re­tail man­ager at the Lost City pro shop. I spent 13½ years at the re­sort in var­i­ous po­si­tions, served my

PGA ap­pren­tice­ship un­der Teddy Web­ber, and be­came golf di­rec­tor for both cour­ses. In 2007 I moved on to Pe­can­wood as gen­eral man­ager and then to Steyn City where I over­saw the con­struc­tion of the Nick­laus course and man­aged op­er­a­tions. ● ● ●

two past ned­bank tour­na­ments stand out for me. In 1998 I was work­ing near the 18th green on Sun­day when Tiger Woods chipped in for birdie to tie Nick Price. Nick had been three ahead with four to play af­ter mak­ing six straight birdies. Nick jumped into my cart, and we drove to­gether to No 16 where play­offs tra­di­tion­ally be­gan. It was an en­thralling and dra­matic play­off which Nick won on the fifth ex­tra hole with a great putt. I was with him all the way and Nick was so cool un­der pres­sure.What a gen­tle­man too. I haven’t met such a mod­est leg­end.Then in 1999 Ernie Els won for the first time, which was thrilling for me, as I grew up at Kemp­ton Park Golf Club play­ing ju­nior golf with Ernie. He was two years older than me, and we were in the same EasternTransvaal ju­nior team in 1986.That was the year he won the SA Am­a­teur at age 16, and his game re­ally went to a dif­fer­ent level.That made us other ju­niors all work harder on our games. ● ● ●

Hos­pi­tal­ity is a big part of the over­all Ned­bank Chal­lenge ex­pe­ri­ence, and Sun In­ter­na­tional work hard at keep­ing the fans happy dur­ing the week.The spon­sors love the new big­ger field for­mat, be­cause it of­fers far more golf to watch, us­ing both the first and tenth tees as start­ing holes.

Ken Payet with the ninth green of the Gary Player course be­hind him.

Ken Payet with Nick Price at the 1998 Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge.

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