NEW MAN AT SUN CITY
IT IS 25 YEARS SINCE KEN PAYET FIRST BECAME PART OF THE SUN CITY STAFF, AND IN JULY HE WAS APPOINTED AS THE NEW TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR OF THE NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE.
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.