BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
THE crème de la crème of southern African golf and some of the country’s promising players will be vying to become the latest FBC Zim Open champion when the high profile tournament tees off at Royal Harare and Chapman Golf Clubs on Thursday.
The FBC Zimbabwe Open Championship which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour is making a return to the local sporting calendar for the first time since the 2018 edition of the tournament that was won by South African golfer Bryce Easton.
A strong field of 192 golfers from around the world will be competing for the ultimate prize in the lucrative event whose purse amounts to R2 million.
The action is expected to get underway at the Chapman Golf Club tomorrow, with players who did not automatically qualify for the event vying for the remaining eight slots in the final field for the championship proper which begins this Thursday and concludes on Sunday.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, which dates back to 1984, the capital’s leading two championship golf courses with Royal Harare and Chapman will jointly host the opening two rounds of the tournament.
The top 60 players on the leaderboard, including ties will battle it for the lion’s share of the prize money in the final two rounds, which will be played at the picturesque Royal Harare Golf Club on Saturday and Sunday.
Former winners of the event Jean Hugo and Lyle Rowe, both from South Africa will be aiming to join an exclusive list of three players who have won the tournament on two occasions or more.
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The 46 year-old Hugo won the 1999 edition of the Zimbabwe Open Golf Championship at Chapman Golf Club, the first of his 19 Sunshine Tour wins, and will be aiming to make it 20 wins in his career during the FBC Zim Open.
The 2016 Zimbabwe Open winner will be aiming to join an illustrious list of players who have won the tournament twice.
Last year he claimed his first win since the Zim Open triumph as he claimed the Blue Label Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club. His other triumph came in the Zambia Open in June 2014.
South African golfers have dominated the Zimbabwe Open since its return to the Sunshine Tour schedule in 2010, maintaining a perfect record before the competition was put on ice during the last three years.
Mutare-born, Dean Burmester, who competes under the South African flag, won the 2015 edition of the tournament.
The last local to win the Zimbabwe Open was Mark McNulty back in 2000.
This year’s edition provides an opportunity for the country’s locally based professionals to finally end the long wait for a home winner.
Royal Harare Golf Club professional Ryan Cairns will spearhead the local charge while other locals who are tipped to do well include Benjamin Follet-Smith, Robson Chinhoi, Visitor Mapwanya and Stuart Krog.
FBC Holdings Limited headline the list of sponsors who have come on board to support the event.
Old Mutual, who were the title sponsors in 2018 remain a part of the tournament as one of the associate sponsors together with Delta Beverages and OK Zimbabwe while the anchor Sponsors, include Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe and Sahwira Events.