Venue suits SA Open to a tee

2011-07-02 20:18

Lucky Mohlauli smiles a lot. But this past week brought the biggest smile to his face – the news that the South African Open Championship would return to Gauteng for the first time in more than a decade.

At the official launch of the 2011 SA Open it was confirmed that it would be played at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife ­Estate, Kempton Park, from November 24 to 27. This is the first time since 2000 that the national Open will be back in ­Gauteng, following an extended run in the Cape and then Durban.

And for Mohlauli, it couldn’t have come at a better time. His ­passion for the game saw him secure a piece of land close to Soweto’s Sun City Prison, where he built a ­driving range with his own hands.

It attracted interest among the local children, and he provided them with free golf lessons. His next goal was to build a putting green for them.

His story reached golf personality Dale Hayes, and so it was that Mohlauli found himself at the launch of the SA Open where he was given the news that The Richer Future Foundation – the tournament’s charity arm – would donate ­R50 000 towards the building of his putting green.

With the SA Open celebrating its 101st playing this year, the custodians of the event were keenly aware that it was entering a new era?– an era in which it hoped to keep positioning ­itself as not only one of the world’s most prestigious Opens, but also as a tournament that appealed to a new generation of South African golfers.

The Serengeti course, designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, would give the event the kind of modern feel that might not ­appeal entirely to the traditionalists, but which would ­capture the attention of a younger market.

“The SA Open forms part of the foundation of South African golf, and it’s important that all South Africans are given an opportunity to share in its glory and history,” Colin Burger, president of the South African Golf Association, said of the decision to bring the event back to Gauteng.

Ernie Els confirmed his participation, bringing him back to defend his title a little way down the road from where he grew up in ­Kempton Park.

“This is a great venue. The public will have easy access in terms of the Gautrain and OR Tambo International being so close. I really think this will be one of the great venues of the SA Open,” said Selwyn Nathan, the ­executive director of the Sunshine Tour.

“South African golf is in the midst of a golden era on the global stage, and the South African Open will once again serve as a wonderful chance to showcase this success worldwide.”

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