Sunshine Tour creates circuit to groom talent

Ernie Els

Ernie Els

Ernie Els' legacy of developing professional golf in his homeland of South Africa is about to grow again.

With his support, the Sunshine Tour announced the launch of the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage – a mini-tour designed to give more professionals an opportunity to hone their games in competitive settings.

"I am very honoured that the Tour has asked me to put my name to the new mini Tour,” Els said in a statement. “The Big Easy Tour will help our young nation’s talent mature, develop their playing skills and take the next big step towards full tour status.

The Big Easy Tour is expected to stage its first event at Crown Mines Golf Club on March 24, and it will be the first of 10 tournaments. Its schedule will conclude with a Tour Championship; a venue will be announced at a later date.

Sunshine Tour commissioner Gareth Tindall said, “As the Sunshine Tour continues to grow, we need to make sure we give more opportunities to develop skills in the professional game to a wider range of players, especially those who perhaps haven’t had many opportunities to excel in amateur golf ranks."

Professional golfers who received their cards at the Sunshine Tour 2011 Qualifying School played in Bloemfontein last year, and the top 30 at the Vusi Ngubeni Strokeplay played in Johannesburg in January are eligible to play on the new tour. In addition, the tour will provide opportunities to those who finished from 71st to 150th on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

Initially, the two-round tournaments all will be held in the Gauteng area, where the majority of targeted pro golfers live. According to the tour, keeping the events in a single region is designed to minimize travel and accommodation costs for the players.

Each event will have R100,000 in prize money, with the Big Easy Tour Championship having a purse of R250,000.

“Stonehage has supported the development of golf through Ernie and his Foundation for over 10 years," said Giuseppe Ciucci, Stonehage's chief executive officer. "We are proud to be involved with the Big Easy Tour at its inception stage and to have the opportunity to contribute further to the development of the game in South Africa."

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