ORGANISERS of the FBC Zimbabwe Open are confident that the country's flagship golf tournament will become part of the DP World Tour (formerly known as European Tour) schedule next year as it continues to enhance its status as one of the most prestigious golf tournaments on the African continent since its revival 13 years ago.
The Zimbabwe Open has a rich history dating back to 1984 and from 1985 to 1992 was part of the Safari Circuit, a collection of events in Africa that were played by professionals based on the European Tour during their winter.
In 1991 and 1992 the event was also part of the Challenge Tour which is a feeder tour to the European Tour.
From 1993 it moved onto the South Africa-based Sunshine Tour before it was cancelled prior to the 2002 event due to economic instability in the country.
Since its revival in 2010, the Zimbabwe Open has grown to become one of the best tournaments on the Sunshine Tour, attracting star-studded players from around the world.
Thus the organisers are now making efforts to further elevate the status of the tournament by making it part of the DP World Tour, which is the main men’s professional golf tour of the European Tour group.
Well-respected golf administrator Livingstone Gwata, who chairs the organising committee of the Zimbabwe Open, revealed that while they had been recommended for DP World Tour status this year by the Sunshine Tour, they were unable to secure the elevation due to changes in the qualifying criteria.
"We were not able to go on board with the DP World Tour in 2022 and 2023 the reason being the European Tour has introduced some very stringent requirements," Gwata said during the launch of this year's FBC Zimbabwe Open at Royal Harare Golf Club on Wednesday.
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"They require a guarantee some six months in advance in the prior year before they can put us on the calendar.
"Our relationship with the Sunshine Tour has been on a gentlemen's agreement type of arrangement and they have not been asking for a guarantee from us, but of course the European Tour are a lot far removed they've had some disappointments elsewhere on the continent and it is understandable that they require some sort of first class guarantee or cash upfront six months in the previous year before they put us on the calendar."
He, however, expressed confidence that starting next year, the FBC Zimbabwe Open would become part of the DP World Tour schedule.
"We are working and we've made a lot of progress in this regard for 2024. We have to have the cash upfront or guarantee by September 2023 and things are looking up and we are very confident that we do have ducks in a roll this time around," said Gwata.
An elevation will see Zimbabwe becoming only the third African country to host DP World Tour co-sanctioned events after South Africa and Kenya.
The plans for the FBC Zimbabwe Open to become part of the DP World Tour comes at a time when the event continues to receive generous support from its sponsors.
This year's tournament which has been named the FBC Zim Open presented by FBC Holdings in association with Borne Marche will have its biggest prize fund in history with R2,2 million at stake for the participating professional golfers.
"The Zimbabwe Open has always been a very popular event in the Sunshine Tour and we can safely say outside the European Tour co-sanctioned big events it ranks amongst the top three events on the African continent and because of that there is always a lot of interest from the good golfers on that tour. It also does attract interest from the professionals from further afield from Europe and Asia," Gwata said.
This year’s edition will be played at the picturesque Royal Harare Golf Club from May 4 to 7.
The preceding pre-qualifier for non-exempt players and traditional pro-am events are set to be played at the same venue from April 31 to May 3.