Will it be lights out for the Nedbank Golf Challenge?

2014-12-13 00:00

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has become something of a metaphor for the new South Africa. The physical beauty of its surrounding geography remains largely unspoilt by the passing of time but the raison d’etre for its existence has changed almost beyond recognition. It was once a defiant expression of white South Africa’s determination to show that it could still stage a world class event despite the ravages that sporting and other sanctions were thrusting onto the country of apartheid,

As such, the Million Dollar was a display of vulgar largesse towards a handful of golfers who travelled to an unpronounceable bantustan to scoop up the barrelful of dollars made available by the peculiarity of South Africa’s weird gambling laws. It was a bastard child conceived as a twos up to a disapproving world and patronised by Johannesburg’s white society who turned it into the country’s leading social-cum-quasi sporting occasion.

In its early days, the Million Dollar had about it the excitement of illegality rather like the speakeasies that flouted the laws of prohibition in the America of the 1930’s. It was given its glamour by a succession of famous golfers who were not the slightest bit squeamish about trousering bucketloads of apartheid’s silver.

Few golfers declined the gilded invitation to participate in the Million Dollar, whose organisers, insensitive to the country’s restive and frustrated black population, began to offer increasingly obscene amounts of money to ensure the presence of golf’s great and good. In the beginning the golf took place in the company of a succession of fading celebrities whose mostly appalling ability to play the game placed the unruly spectators in danger of serious injury.

For all that, some memorable golf was played. The Million Dollar received an immediate boost to its newly-born reputation by the nine hole play-off between Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros in its very first outing. To his disgust, the young Spaniard lost that play-off when there was an enormous disparity between first prize and that of the runner up. Nevertheless, Seve went on to treat the Million Dollar as his personal ATM and a succession of flattered women were only to happy to keep the handsome golfer happy in the post sunset hours.

During the years that followed an effort was made to disguise the fact that the Million Dollar was too limited an event to rely on the kind of thrilling finish provided by Miller and Ballesteros. Once the celebrities faded off the scene to the relief of everyone including the organisers, who had become sick of their over-blown egos, they were replaced for a while by senior golfers of once great ability and then by a bevy of easy on the eye female professionals.

In time, of course, the world of golf could no longer thumb its nose at the trouble brewing in South Africa. The quality of fields assembled by the men of Sun City declined to the point where interest in the event was limited to those locals still anxious for a free weekend in sweltering weather. The event was won by a succession of Southern African bred golfers as most of the better golfers stayed away from the bubbling troubles.

Eventually, the miracle wrought by Madiba, de Klerk and others came to the rescue of the Million Dollar which metamorphed into the Nedbank Golf Challenge. The lure, however, of a single huge purse began to lose its attraction for golfers spoilt by bloated offerings all over the world.

For a while, the promises of the rainbow nation and exceptional hospitality kept the tournament sufficiently stocked with enough of the world’s best golfers. Tiger Woods came, lured by a promise to meet Mandela. He lost a play-off to Nick Price but repaid the favour of his invitation by returning home to establish his own wheel-barrow-filling end-of-year shindig in the States. At a stroke, he thus deprived Sun City of all the reluctant travellers amongst American golfers, which is most of them.

Ernie Els held the event aloft with several displays of stunning golf until a spat involving extra accommodation for his extended family soured relations between the anything but “Big Easy” and the gentlemen of Sun City. He has more or less declined to play ever since apart from a couple of desultory appearances.

In an effort to provide the illusion that this was actually a proper golf tournament and part of the Sunshine and European tours, it was changed into a thirty man event open only to the world’s top ranking golfers in order of those willing to attend. The trouble, manifest in this year’s event, is that not one of the world’s top ten golfers deigned to appear. Martin Kaymer at number thirteen was this year’s top ranking attendee at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the only golfer ranked in the top twenty.

This is not to say that this year’s chosen thirty do play the sport of golf to the highest standards, but not one of them had either the ability or character to get the pulses racing in the manner of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia. Which is a pity because the winner this year, Danny Willett, played a brand of golf that was every bit as thrilling as anything dished up by the truly greats of the game.

Willett’s final 17 under par has only been bettered by six previous winners. Four of those efforts were accomplished during successive years between 1999 and 2002, after which the course designers took steps to make the Gary Player course more difficult in the face of changes to golf’s equipment. So hats off to Willett for his superb golf.

Nothing, however, can disguise the fact that the NGC is moving towards its sell-by date. Like the country that hosts it, the NGC has lost the appeal that once had the big names queuing for the opportunity to play.

England’s Danny Willett celebrates his win at last weekend’s Nedbank Challenge at Sun City, a tournament which could have reached it’s sell-by date in its failure to lure the world’s top golfers.

PHOTO: reuters

RAY WHITE laments the status of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and asks if the event is really worthwhile.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has become something of a metaphor for the new South Africa. The physical beauty of its surrounding geography remains largely unspoilt by the passing of time but the raison d`etre for its existence has changed almost beyond recognition. It was once a defiant expression of white South Africa`s determination to show that it could still stage a world class event despite the ravages that sporting and other sanctions were thrusting onto the country of apartheid,

As such, the Million Dollar was a display of vulgar largesse towards a handful of golfers who travelled to an unpronounceable bantustan to scoop up the barrelful of dollars made available by the peculiarity of South Africa`s weird gambling laws. It was a bastard child conceived as a twos up to a disapproving world and patronized by Johannesburg`s white society who turned it into the country`s leading social come quasi sporting occasion.

In its early days, the Million Dollar had about it the excitement of illegality rather like the speakeasies that flouted the laws of prohibition in the America of the 1930`s. It was given its glamour by a succession of famous golfers who were not the slightest bit squeamish in trousering bucket loads of apartheid`s silver.

Few golfers declined the gilded invitation to participate in the Million Dollar whose organizers, insensitive to the country`s restive and frustrated black population, began to offer increasingly obscene amounts of money to ensure the presence of golf`s great and good. In the beginning the golf took place in the company of a succession of fading celebrities whose mostly appalling ability to play the game placed the unruly spectators in danger of serious injury.

For all that, some memorable golf was played. The Million Dollar received an immediate boost to its newly born reputation by the nine hole playoff between Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros in its very first outing. To his disgust, the young Spaniard lost that playoff when there was an enormous disparity between first prize and that of the runner up. Nevertheless, Seve went on to treat the Million Dollar as his personal ATM and a succession of flattered women were only to happy to keep the handsome golfer happy in the post sunset hours.

During the years that followed an effort was made to disguise the fact that the Million Dollar was too limited an event to rely on the kind of thrilling finish provided by Miller and Ballesteros. Once the celebrities faded off the scene to the relief of everyone including the organizers who had become sick of their over blown egos, they were replaced for a while by senior golfers of once great ability and then by a bevy of easy on the eye female professionals.

In time, of course, the world of golf could no longer thumb its nose at the trouble brewing in South Africa. The quality of fields assembled by the men of Sun City declined to the point where interest in the event was limited to those locals still anxious for a free weekend in sweltering weather. The event was won by a succession of Southern African bred golfers as most of the better golfers stayed away from the bubbling troubles.

Eventually, the miracle wrought by Madiba, de Klerk and others came to the rescue of the Million Dollar which metamorphed into the Nedbank Golf Challenge. The lure, however, of a single huge purse began to lose its attraction for golfers spoilt by bloated offerings all over the world.

For a while, the promises of the rainbow nation and exceptional hospitality kept the tournament sufficiently stocked with enough of the world`s best golfers. Tiger Woods came, lured by a promise to meet Mandela. He lost a play off to Nick Price but repaid the favour of his invitation by returning home to establish his own wheel barrow filling end of year shindig in the States. At a stroke, he thus deprived Sun City of all the reluctant travellers amongst American golfers, which is most of them.

Ernie Els held the event aloft with several displays of stunning golf until a spat involving extra accommodation for his extended family soured relations between the anything but ‘Big Easy’ and the gentlemen of Sun City. He has more or less declined to play ever since apart from a couple of desultory appearances.

In an effort to provide the illusion that this was actually a proper golf tournament and part of the Sunshine and European tours, it was changed into a thirty man event open only to the world`s top ranking golfers in order of those willing to attend. The trouble, manifest in this year`s event, is that not one of the world`s top ten golfers deigned to appear. Martin Kaymer at number thirteen was this year`s top ranking attendee at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the only golfer ranked in the top twenty.

This is not to say that this year`s chosen thirty do play the sport of golf to the highest of standards but not one of them had either the ability or character to get the pulses racing in the manner of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia. Which is a pity because the winner this year, Danny Willett, played a brand of golf that was every bit as thrilling as anything dished up by the truly greats of the game.

Willett`s final score of 17 under par has only been bettered by six previous winners. Four of those efforts were accomplished during successive years between 1999 and 2002, after which the course designers took steps to make the Gary Player course more difficult in the face of changes to golf`s equipment. So hats off to Willett for his superb golf.

Nothing, however, can disguise the fact that the NGC is moving towards its sell by date. Like the country that hosts it, the NGC has lost the appeal that once had those who wanted to do business with it queuing for the opportunity to play.

England’s Danny Willett celebrates his win at last weekend’s Nedbank Challenge at Sun City, a tournament which could have reached it’s sell by date in its failure to lure the world’s top golfers.

PHOTO: reuters

RAY WHITE laments the status of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and asks if the event is really worthwhile.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has become something of a metaphor for the new South Africa. The physical beauty of its surrounding geography remains largely unspoilt by the passing of time but the raison d`etre for its existence has changed almost beyond recognition. It was once a defiant expression of white South Africa`s determination to show that it could still stage a world class event despite the ravages that sporting and other sanctions were thrusting onto the country of apartheid,

As such, the Million Dollar was a display of vulgar largesse towards a handful of golfers who travelled to an unpronounceable bantustan to scoop up the barrelful of dollars made available by the peculiarity of South Africa`s weird gambling laws. It was a bastard child conceived as a twos up to a disapproving world and patronized by Johannesburg`s white society who turned it into the country`s leading social come quasi sporting occasion.

In its early days, the Million Dollar had about it the excitement of illegality rather like the speakeasies that flouted the laws of prohibition in the America of the 1930`s. It was given its glamour by a succession of famous golfers who were not the slightest bit squeamish in trousering bucket loads of apartheid`s silver.

Few golfers declined the gilded invitation to participate in the Million Dollar whose organizers, insensitive to the country`s restive and frustrated black population, began to offer increasingly obscene amounts of money to ensure the presence of golf`s great and good. In the beginning the golf took place in the company of a succession of fading celebrities whose mostly appalling ability to play the game placed the unruly spectators in danger of serious injury.

For all that, some memorable golf was played. The Million Dollar received an immediate boost to its newly born reputation by the nine hole playoff between Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros in its very first outing. To his disgust, the young Spaniard lost that playoff when there was an enormous disparity between first prize and that of the runner up. Nevertheless, Seve went on to treat the Million Dollar as his personal ATM and a succession of flattered women were only to happy to keep the handsome golfer happy in the post sunset hours.

During the years that followed an effort was made to disguise the fact that the Million Dollar was too limited an event to rely on the kind of thrilling finish provided by Miller and Ballesteros. Once the celebrities faded off the scene to the relief of everyone including the organizers who had become sick of their over blown egos, they were replaced for a while by senior golfers of once great ability and then by a bevy of easy on the eye female professionals.

In time, of course, the world of golf could no longer thumb its nose at the trouble brewing in South Africa. The quality of fields assembled by the men of Sun City declined to the point where interest in the event was limited to those locals still anxious for a free weekend in sweltering weather. The event was won by a succession of Southern African bred golfers as most of the better golfers stayed away from the bubbling troubles.

Eventually, the miracle wrought by Madiba, de Klerk and others came to the rescue of the Million Dollar which metamorphed into the Nedbank Golf Challenge. The lure, however, of a single huge purse began to lose its attraction for golfers spoilt by bloated offerings all over the world.

For a while, the promises of the rainbow nation and exceptional hospitality kept the tournament sufficiently stocked with enough of the world`s best golfers. Tiger Woods came, lured by a promise to meet Mandela. He lost a play off to Nick Price but repaid the favour of his invitation by returning home to establish his own wheel barrow filling end of year shindig in the States. At a stroke, he thus deprived Sun City of all the reluctant travellers amongst American golfers, which is most of them.

Ernie Els held the event aloft with several displays of stunning golf until a spat involving extra accommodation for his extended family soured relations between the anything but ‘Big Easy’ and the gentlemen of Sun City. He has more or less declined to play ever since apart from a couple of desultory appearances.

In an effort to provide the illusion that this was actually a proper golf tournament and part of the Sunshine and European tours, it was changed into a thirty man event open only to the world`s top ranking golfers in order of those willing to attend. The trouble, manifest in this year`s event, is that not one of the world`s top ten golfers deigned to appear. Martin Kaymer at number thirteen was this year`s top ranking attendee at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the only golfer ranked in the top twenty.

This is not to say that this year`s chosen thirty do play the sport of golf to the highest of standards but not one of them had either the ability or character to get the pulses racing in the manner of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia. Which is a pity because the winner this year, Danny Willett, played a brand of golf that was every bit as thrilling as anything dished up by the truly greats of the game.

Willett`s final score of 17 under par has only been bettered by six previous winners. Four of those efforts were accomplished during successive years between 1999 and 2002, after which the course designers took steps to make the Gary Player course more difficult in the face of changes to golf`s equipment. So hats off to Willett for his superb golf.

Nothing, however, can disguise the fact that the NGC is moving towards its sell by date. Like the country that hosts it, the NGC has lost the appeal that once had those who wanted to do business with it queuing for the opportunity to play.

England’s Danny Willett celebrates his win at last weekend’s Nedbank Challenge at Sun City, a tournament which could have reached it’s sell by date in its failure to lure the world’s top golfers.

PHOTO: reuters

Will it be lights out for the Nedbank Golf Challenge?

RAY WHITE laments the status of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and asks if the event is really worthwhile.

RAY WHITE laments the status of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and asks if the event is really worthwhile.

THE Nedbank Golf Challenge has become something of a metaphor for the new South Africa. The physical beauty of its surrounding geography remains largely unspoilt by the passing of time but the raison d‘être for its existence has changed almost beyond recognition. It was once a defiant expression of white South Africa’s determination to show that it could still stage a world-class event despite the ­ravages that sporting and other sanctions were thrusting onto the country of apartheid.

As such, the Million Dollar was a display of vulgar largesse towards a handful of golfers who travelled to an unpronounceable bantustan to scoop up the barrelful of dollars made available by the peculiarity of South Africa’s weird gambling laws. It was a bastard child conceived as a twos-up to a disapproving world and patronised by Johannesburg’s white society who turned it into the country’s leading social come quasi sporting occasion.

In its early days, the Million Dollar had about it the excitement of illegality rather like the speakeasies that flouted the laws of prohibition in the America of the 1930s. It was given its glamour by a succession of famous golfers who were not the slightest bit squeamish in trousering bucket-loads of apartheid’s silver.

Few golfers declined the gilded invitation to participate in the Million Dollar whose organisers, insensitive to the country’s restive and frustrated black population, began to offer increasingly obscene amounts of money to ensure the presence of golf’s great and good. In the beginning the golf took place in the company of a succession of fading celebrities whose mostly appalling ability to play the game placed the unruly spectators in danger of serious injury.

For all that, some memorable golf was played. The Million Dollar received an immediate boost to its newly born reputation by the nine hole playoff between Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros in its very first outing. To his disgust, the young Spaniard lost that playoff when there was an enormous disparity between first prize and that of the runner-up. Nevertheless, Seve went on to treat the Million Dollar as his personal ATM and a succession of flattered women were only too happy to keep the handsome golfer happy in the post sunset hours.

During the years that followed, an effort was made to disguise the fact that the Million Dollar was too limited an event to rely on the kind of thrilling finish provided by Miller and Ballesteros. Once the celebrities faded off the scene to the relief of everyone including the organisers who had become sick of their over blown egos, they were replaced for a while by senior golfers of once great ability and then by a bevy of easy-on-the-eye female professionals.

In time, of course, the world of golf could no longer thumb its nose at the trouble brewing in South Africa. The quality of fields assembled by the men of Sun City declined to the point where interest in the event was limited to those locals still anxious for a free weekend in sweltering weather. The event was won by a succession of Southern African-bred golfers as most of the better golfers stayed away from the bubbling troubles.

Eventually, the miracle wrought by Madiba, De Klerk and others came to the rescue of the Million Dollar, which metamorphed into the Nedbank Golf Challenge. The lure, however, of a single huge purse began to lose its attraction for golfers spoilt by bloated offerings all over the world.

For a while, the promises of the rainbow nation and hospitality kept the tournament sufficiently stocked with enough of the world’s best golfers. Tiger Woods came, lured by a promise to meet Mandela. He lost a play-off to Nick Price but repaid the favour of his invitation by returning home to establish his own wheelbarrow-filling end of year shindig in the States. At a stroke, he thus deprived Sun City of all the reluctant travellers among American golfers, which is most of them.

Ernie Els held the event aloft with several displays of stunning golf until a spat involving extra accommodation for his extended family soured relations between the anything but “Big Easy” and the gentlemen of Sun City. He has more or less declined to play ever since apart from a couple of desultory appearances.

In an effort to provide the illusion that this was actually a proper golf tournament and part of the Sunshine and European tours, it was changed into a 30-man event open only to the world’s top ranking golfers in order of those willing to attend. The trouble, manifest in this year’s event, is that not one of the world’s top 10 golfers deigned to appear. Martin Kaymer at number 13 was this year’s top ranking attendee at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the only golfer ranked in the top 20.

This is not to say that this year’s chosen 30 do play the sport of golf to the highest of standards but not one of them had either the ability or character to get the pulses racing in the manner of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia.

Which is a pity because the winner this year, Danny Willett, played a brand of golf that was every bit as thrilling as anything dished up by the greats of the game.

Willett’s final score of 17 under par has only been bettered by six previous winners. Four of those efforts were accomplished during successive years between 1999 and 2002, after which the course designers took steps to make the Gary Player course more difficult in the face of changes to golf’s equipment. So hats off to Willett for his superb golf.

Nothing, however, can disguise the fact that the NGC is moving towards its sell-by date. Like the country that hosts it, the NGC has lost the appeal that once had those who wanted to do business with it queuing for the opportunity to play.

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