10 October 2009

Zimbabwe Open to Bounce Back

Harare — The good old times are certainly looking to roll back for local golf when the Zimbabwe Open resurfaces on the radar next year.

Although the finer details of the competition are still being worked out, it can be confirmed that information communication technology company, Africom, have agreed to come in as the principal sponsors.

The ground is now being prepared for the competition to tee off at the Borrowdale Brooke Golf and Country Club.

Africom are one of the few companies that have retained their investment in golf over the last seven years.

The company's sales and marketing executive Rudo Mudavanhu said they were still working out the modalities of reviving the event that was last held in 2001.

The Zimbabwe Open was first staged in 1984 with the late Anderson Rusike winning it and, to date, he remains the only black golfer to achieve that feat.

South Africa's Darren Fichadrt was the last winner in 2001 before the sponsors Old Mutual and CABS pulled out because of financial constraints.

Over the years, efforts to revive the Zimbabwe Open by the Zimbabwe Professional Golfers Association, the Zimbabwe Golf Association and other stakeholders have only become talk shows. The economic challenges in Zimbabwe over the past few years also made the task of reviving the Zimbabwe Open a difficult one.

Now Africom have become the Messiah of the competition.

"We are picking up the Zimbabwe Open. We want to revive that competition," said Mudavanhu.

She said Africom will brand their name to the event.

"It should be known as the Africom Zimbabwe Open when we resurrect it." Mudavanhu said.

Mudavanhu said her organisation will be guided by the ZPGA and the ZGA, who are the custodians of the sport here in Zimbabwe.

"We are going to be guided by the ZPGA and the ZGA in preparations and rules of the competition," she said.

Over the past eight years, Africom has been sponsoring the Africom Classic and Mudavanhu said their competition could then be taking a new dimension.

Since its inception seven years ago, the Africom Classic has been played as a Pro-Am.

This year, 35 golf clubs from across Zimbabwe participated in the tournament and the climax was the professionals' final round yesterday at Borrowdale Brooke.

Today, the professional and the amateurs will share the course in a foursome format. Africom has also erected some electronic billboards, powered by solar panels.

"There is a regular update of scores on the four billboards we have mounted.

"Once the players register their scores, its punched in and automatically updated," said Mudavanhu.

Mudavanhu said while they will be bankrolling the Zimbabwe Open, chances were that their Africom Classic could remain part of the calendar.

"I am sure we will retain the Africom Classic but only limited to clubs.

"Over the years we have seen it growing and I think it will be good to keep it as an inter-club competition.

"That way it will allow some of the aspiring non-professionals to aspire to reach the professional level," said Mudavanhu. ZPGA president Akil Yousef was not available for comment because he was playing in the last round of the Africom Classic.

Before it was scrapped, the Zimbabwe Open had joined the Southern Africa Sunshine Tour.

The Zimbabwe Open was the fifth stop of the Sunshine Tour, drawing leading professional players mainly from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Swaziland.

The Sunshine Tour includes the Telkom Challenge, Nashua Masters, Nedbank Masters and Vodacom Players Championship.

Former world number Nick Price, Tony Jonhstone and Mark McNculty used to return home to add flavour to the tournament.

South African golfers Jean Hugo, Darren Fichardt, Bradford Vaughan cut their milk teeth at the Zim Open.

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