THE 2013 edition of the flagship golfing event on the local calendar, the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open, was launched at Royal Harare yesterday with a marked increase in its package. This year the title sponsors, Delta Beverages, through their Golden Pilsener brand, have unveiled a 1,65 million sponsorship package, which represents a 10% increase from last year's pocket.
The event will be held at Royal Harare from 15 to 21 April.
The Zimbabwe Open Golf Committee chairman, Livingstone Gwata, said they are happy with the progress made so far and thanked the sponsors who have come on board.
"The title sponsor is Golden Pilsener while Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe joins Zimplats and Innscor Africa as associated sponsors," said Gwata.
"Jaguar FBC, are anchor sponsors while South African Airways remains a partner of the Open along with Schweepes."
Gwata also revealed that the tournament will be played with the same formart of a pre-qualifying round before going for the finals.
"A pre-qualifying tournament will be held at Chapman at a date to be confirmed with two Pro-Ams at Royal some two days before the major tee off," said Gwata.
"The tournament expects to have 156 professionals from different tours around the world as well as some qualifying amateurs will take to the fairways for the coveted event.
"Out of the 156 professionals that will take part, 114 are automatic entries from the Sunshine Tour as well as the top 16 local players in the Zambezi Tour joining as automatic entries.
"The remaining 26 slots will be determined by the pre-qualifiers and invitations that will be extended at the discretion of the ZOGC.
"Since its return, the Zimbabwe Open has grown from strength to strength and this year the tournament is expected to be very competitive since it will be held at a time when there will be no key events in major tours."
The Zimbabwe Open returned to the Sunshine Tour in 2010 after spending nine years off the radar.
The Open, Zimbabwe's premier golf competition, runs under the Sunshine Tour banner and a minimum prize money of R1 million is required for a tournament to qualify.
The Zimbabwe Open is a tournament on the Sunshine Tour, which was first played in 1984, and was part of what was known as the Safari Tour, a collection of events in Africa that were played by professionals based on the European Tour during their winter.
As a result, it became an event on the European-based Challenge tour in 1991, where it remained for two seasons before moving onto the FNB Summer Tour, which became the Southern Africa Tour and later the Sunshine Tour.
As it was held in the weeks preceding the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the tournament attracted some of the world's leading players, as they used it as a warm-up tourney for the big money invitational.
Past winners include Major winners Vijay Singh and Nick Price, who along with Mark McNulty is most successful player at the event, both men having recorded three victories.
Since its return, the Open has been dominated by South African players with Jbe' Kruger (2010), Theunis Spangenberg (2011) and Chris Swanepoel (2012) winning it so far.