LOCAL golf fans will have to wait longer for the return of the Zimbabwe Open Golf Championship after its sanctioning body the South Africa-based Sunshine Tour on Monday suspended all its activities due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19).
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The country’s premier golf tournament was poised to make a return to the Sunshine Tour schedule this year after being cancelled last year due to lack of clarity over the official foreign currency exchange rate policy prior to the introduction of a formal inter-bank market.
This year’s tournament was scheduled for April 2 to 5 at the picturesque Royal Harare Golf Club with a very strong field of international golfers from around the world earmarked to feature in the event.
Among the international golfers who had committed to the tournament is US-based Zimbabwe-born Sean Crocker. He had already expressed delight in playing in his country of birth.
The Zimbabwe Open, ranked among the top five most prestigious tournaments on the Sunshine Tour schedule, becomes the latest major local sporting event to be suspended due to coronavirus.
The Sunshine Tour said it made the decision to suspend all its activities after the South African government on Sunday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.
Selwyn Nathan, the Sunshine Tour commissioner said a decision on the possible resumption of the tournament on the southern Africa-based men’s professional golf tour would be made on April 20.
“In light of the announcement by the (South Africa) President and having taken the advice of the various government ministers and the World Health Organisation on the issues surrounding COVID-19, the Sunshine Tour will be suspending all of its activities as of March 16, 2020. The Sunshine Tour will review its position on April 20 or as the situation demands.
“This decision was taken by the Sunshine Tour board of directors and players committee and stands in unity with the International Federation of PGA Tours and world golf’s decision to suspend its activities.
He added: “Our aim is to both safeguard our members and our loyal fans, and support the President’s call for all South Africans to present a united front in taking the prescribed action to prevent the further spread of this virus. As such the Sunshine Tour has instituted an immediate international and domestic air travel ban for all of our staff.”
Nathan said the golf body was in consultation with its partners among them, organising committees of upcoming tournaments in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Swaziland which form part of its African leg of tournaments.
“As part of our Return to Golf plan, the tour has already held discussions with all our partners, sponsors and host venues of our upcoming African leg of tournaments on the proposed way forward and to ensure everything is in place to resume our activities as soon as the South African government provides this go-ahead and in consultation with our partners in Africa,” he said.