- The Sunshine Tour is planning three new tournaments following the ongoing Rise-Up Series.
- The Rise-Up Series is a five-tournament event to get professional golf back in South Africa following Covid-19.
- Sunshine Tour deputy commissioner Thomas Abt admitted that the Series has been a huge success so far.
On 19 August, the Sunshine Tour kicked off their 2020/21 season with a five-tournament Rise-Up Series amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over 100 golfers have competed over the opening three events and while the field doesn't have the a huge number of star names, the golf has been entertaining.
Currently, only co-sanctioned European Tour events in South Africa (SA Open, Alfred Dunhill Championships, Nedbank Golf Challenge) are broadcasted live on SuperSport.
However, the Sunshine Tour struck a deal with SuperSport to play the final round live on DSTV Now and the Tour will also be streaming the last two-and-a-half hours on their social media platforms.
While it would be great to have a full Sunshine Tour tournament broadcast live, it's something that the Sunshine Tour cannot afford.
"Where we stand right now, unfortunately, the cost of broadcasting onto SuperSport right now is prohibited for us... We'd say we will rather give the money to the players than rather put it into a broadcast platform, so that's why we've gone with the streaming element," said Sunshine Tour deputy commissioner Thomas Abt last month.
The Rise-Up Series, which is taking place behind-closed-doors, have crowned three winners thus far - Darren Fichardt (Betway Championship) and Daniel van Tonder (Sunshine Tour Championship) and George Coetzee (Titleist Championship).
Speaking to Sport24 in an interview, Abt acknowledged that the Rise-Up Series has been a huge success.
"It's been great, nothing less than positive from a professional golfers standpoint, golf clubs and amateur golfers," said Abt.
"We're very excited especially with the partners that we've secured ... it's onwards and upwards from now on and hopefully, we'll grow and we're very happy with what we've started."
The Rise-Up Series is taking place in and around Gauteng, which has the most positive coronavirus cases in South Africa.
The Sunshine Tour, who've not implemented a 'bubble' environment, have instead used GolfRSA's comprehensive Covid-19 Risk Mitigation Strategy, which was approved by the government.
To monitor players during the pandemic, all golfers have to screen themselves for a minimum of two weeks before an event. This process is done through the HealthDocs App, which players need to input their temperature every morning and every evening.
Before the start of the Betway Championship, Sunshine Tour golfer Toto Thimba Jnr told Sport24 that he was unsure about the process and how it'll impact his game.
Abt stated that the beginning was a "learning curve" for both the players and Sunshine Tour staff, he believes it's become the new norm.
"In the beginning, it was all new and different but now it's the norm. I think the players are getting used to it, they log in the morning and in the evening, saying there are no symptoms, it's a simple process," said Abt.
"The players realised very quickly that they have to complete the HealthDocs and go through the process... If players miss their HealthDocs login, they've got the option of going for a Covid-19 test.
"I think it was just one of the things that's new in golf. We haven't heard anything negative since then."
Usually, in South Africa's winter, the Sunshine Tour would have an 'African swing', which included tournaments in Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. This has been scrapped.
Abt confirmed to Sport24 that following the Rise-Up Series, the Tour is planning three follow-up tournaments in conjunction with Sun International.
"We've got three events with Sun International so we go to the Wild Coast Sun, Time Square in Pretoria and then the Investec Sun City, which was usually the Investec Swazi event but because the borders are closed we can't get to Swaziland. We've moved that event to Sun City.
"We'll have three tournaments in a row after the Rise-Up Series and hopefully after that, the other big events will come into play as well."
Earlier in the week, the Sunshine Tour confirmed that co-sanctioned European Tour events, the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and the SA Open are still scheduled to take place this summer.
This comes after the cancellation of Africa's Major, the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City.