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​​Joburg Open back in the swing of things

The City of Johannesburg’s sporting flagship returns to the fairways in a shootout that carries an increased prize money for the champion. 

This year’s total purse is €1.3 million (approximately R15 million). South Africa’s George Coetzee will attempt to emulate the achievements of his countrymen – Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne – who both won the tournament twice.

Coetzee is going for his second in a row following his win last year. However, he is up against a strong field of established golfers, who will descend on the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to take part in arguably one of the oldest sports in the world, reputed to have first been played in 1297 in the Netherlands, although Scotland is widely credited as the birthplace of the game.

The 2015 edition of the Joburg Open tees off on Thursday February 26 and runs until Sunday 1 March.

By some sheer coincidence, February 26 is the date on which the first official game was played in 1297. The tournament will start with the Pro-Am on Tuesday February 24, followed by golf clinics in Alexandra on Wednesday February 25.

One of the highlights of the tournament is the opportunity it affords the players to qualify for the British Open. The top three finishers stand a chance to qualify for golf’s third major in July, that is, if they have not automatically qualified already. This year’s British Open will be played at St Andrews in Scotland.

While the Joburg Open parades the best in the game of golf, it also has an additional objective – affording youngsters from the adjacent township of Alexandra the opportunity to have a go at this noble sport. The township currently boasts a golf driving range, the fruits of this seven-year tournament.

Johannesburg Executive Mayor Cllr Parks Tau says the driving range should not be seen as a legacy of the Joburg Open only, but also as an extension of the City’s quest to develop sporting facilities in all the regions.

“The Joburg Open is a way for all golfers to better their rankings and compete on the same footing as some of the best in the world,” says Tau.

“The Joburg Open gives us the opportunity to showcase our facilities and position ourselves as a world-class golf-hosting city with all the facilities that we have,” he says.

South Africans have performed admirably well in the tournament, with Schwartzel lifting the trophy in 2010 and 2011, Brendan Grace cruising to victory in 2012 and Sterne claiming the bragging rights in 2008 and 2013.

Other winners include Argentine’s Ariel Canete, who won the inaugural edition in 2007; and Denmark’s Anders Hansen, who took the championship in 2009.

City of Johannesburg’s Marketing Director Bongi Mokaba says the City is looking forward to a successful tournament. “This will be the best organised tournament yet,” she says.