RYAN CAIRNS will be motivated by the prospect of joining the small exclusive club of Zimbabwean golfers who have played at the prestigious British Open Championship, when he tees off at the Open Championship Final International Qualifier, being staged by the Sunshine Tour today.
Report by Daniel Nhakaniso
The crucial qualifier for the season’s third major championship will be played over 36 holes at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in South Africa, starting today and ending tomorrow.
Only a few Zimbabwean golfers such as the legendary Nick Price, Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty have had the honour of playing at the Open Championship and Price is still the only one to have gone on to win the coveted claret jug in 1994.
Cairns, who claimed his breakthrough victory on the Sunshine Tour last season, will be hoping to emulate his more illustrious compatriots by securing one of the three qualification slots.
The 29-year-old will be the only Zimbabwean golfer in the 74-member field for the qualifying tournament vying for a spot in only three places at Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland in July.
According to the draw for the qualifying tournament released by the Sunshine Tour yesterday, Cairns was expected to tee off this morning together with South Africa’s PH McIntyre and Carlos Del Moral from Spain.
Last year, former Royal Harare Golf Club professional golfer Adilson da Silva from Brazil, together with South Africa’s Grant Veenstra and Andrew Georgiou, earned the place to play at last year’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes after finishing in the top three of a 36-hole international qualifier.
The 142nd Open Championship — golf’s oldest and most coveted major championship — will be played at Muirfield from July 14-21.
International final qualifying events for the British Open Championship were introduced in 2004 and are held on five continents to give more players from around the world the chance to gain direct entry into golf’s oldest championship.
Meanwhile Cairns had a good weekend ahead of the Open Championship qualifier after finishing in a tie for 41st at the European Tour co-sanctioned Tshwane Open.
Cairns managed rounds of 70, 71, 70 and 68 at the Ernie Els-designed Irene Country Club to finish on nine-under-par 279 and in the process earn a cool R103 545,00.
On the US PGA Tour, Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge finished in a tie for 29th at the Honda Classic at the tough PGA National Champion Course in Florida, US.
De Jonge, who is in contention for a place in Nick Price Internationals team for the Presidents’ Cup, carded rounds of 70, 68, 73 and 72 to finish on three-over-par 283 and claim $36 525,00 for his efforts.