Sunshine Tour

Sunshine Tour-Challenge Tour partnership deemed a huge success

Royal Cape Golf Club (Gallo Images/Sunshine Tour)
Royal Cape Golf Club (Gallo Images/Sunshine Tour)
Shaun Roy

Cape Town - The partnership between the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour has been deemed a success, according to the head of the Challenge Tour, Jamie Hodges.

The new three-year partnership will see the Challenge Tour co-sanctioning three events with the Sunshine Tour, namely, the Limpopo Championship, Cape Town Open and Dimension Data Pro-Am.

The tournaments were selected primarily to host larger fields than normal to be contested on two or three courses.

The Challenge Tour decided to move down to South Africa in order to cut their winter break short in Europe.

South Africa's JC Ritchie, who is currently competing as a Challenge Tour member, won in Limpopo, while Sweden's Anton Karlsson sealed his maiden victory in Cape Town this past weekend.

Following Karlsson's victory at the Royal Cape Golf Club, Hodges told Sport24 that the partnership between the two Tours has been a huge success.

"It's great to have guys winning here but it's more about the opportunity," said Hodges.

"For our players, the opportunity is fantastic. They can't play golf in Europe at the moment so for them to come here and play on great golf courses and compete against Sunshine Tour guys, it's great... I can see this becoming a long-standing partnership."

Karlsson, who edged South Africa's Garrick Higgo for the Cape Town Open title, said the last few weeks in South Africa has been a learning curve.

"The Challenge Tour has always had a very long break. These weeks have been great and it's been a really good idea to get three nice weeks here and work on your game," said Karlsson.

Hodges revealed that this partnership could give Sunshine Tour golfers the opportunity to compete in the Challenge Tour and possibly the European Tour.

Only a handful of South Africans have graduated on the Challenge Tour, including 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, Erik van Rooyen, Dylan Frittelli and Brandon Stone.

Hodges insisted that South African golf is in a very stable and good place.

"I think it's in a very strong place. The talent in terms of the players is clear to see. There's no reason why the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour both can't grow, it's in a good place," he said.

The Challenge Tour has a proud history of star-studded graduates, which include four-time Major champion Brooks Koepka, former Ryder Cup-winning captain Thomas Bjorn and 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson.

"We feel a sense of pride when we see former graduates who go on to the European Tour. It's nice to see that happen," said Hodges.

"These guys are so good and talented and we need to give them the opportunity to show that. There's no reason why everyone playing at Royal Cape on the weekend, they're good enough to play on the European Tour."

The Challenge Tour's visit to South Africa concludes at Fancourt for the Dimension Data Pro-Am starting on Thursday.

The winner in George will receive an automatic spot in the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind, Memphis, in July 2020.

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