Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
2 minute read
5 May 2022
4:43 pm

‘Saudi league’ golfers set to face Nedbank Golf Challenge ban

Ken Borland

Some well-known South African players look set to tee it up in the new eight-event competition.

Players who feature in the new Saudi golf league may be banned from the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

South African golfers who participate in the ‘rebel’ Saudi Arabian league will still be welcome to play on the Sunshine Tour, as things stand at the moment, but come the showpiece Nedbank Golf Challenge at the end of the year, they could find themselves out in the cold.

LIV Golf, with Greg Norman as chief executive, promises guaranteed lucrative paydays for their competitors, with the winner of each tournament taking home £2.8 million and last place being worth £97 000.

The eight-event series starts at Centurion Golf Club in southern England next month. But much of the controversy surrounding the league revolves around the fact it is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace have all been linked with LIV Golf, while the PGA Tour in the United States and the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) have both threatened life bans for anyone who plays in the breakaway series.

Sunshine Tour commissioner Thomas Abt told The Citizen on Thursday that while they have their own regulations, they would respect the DP World Tour’s decision when it comes to their tournaments.

He said discussions will still have to be held when it comes to the five co-sanctioned tournaments with them like the SA Open. But the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which returns to Sun City in November after a two-year absence due to Covid, is entirely a DP World Tour event, so Sunshine Tour rules do not apply.

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“We have agreed a strategic alliance with the DP World Tour, but they must do whatever they see fit in their tournaments,” Abt said.

“But our Sunshine Tour regulations state that a golfer must ask for a release only if there is a conflicting event in the same territory of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, at the same time.

“So we don’t have any rules to stop our members playing in events overseas, but the Nedbank Golf Challenge is wholly a DP World Tour event,” Abt explained.

The Sunshine Tour itself is in boisterous health with Abt announcing a new points-based order of merit, sponsored by Luno, on Thursday, as well as 35 tournaments next season, the most ever.

“Because there are such big discrepancies in prize funds between tournaments, we have introduced a tier-system for points to give the guys who support our tour through the year a genuine chance of winning the order of merit,” Abt said.

“The bigger events will be worth 12,000 points, but there are lots more tournaments worth 2,000 points, so that those golfers who really support the Sunshine Tour can compete for top place.”

The winner of the 2022/23 order of merit will not only gain entry into the US and British Opens and the Nedbank Golf Challenge, but have the use of a Jaguar/Land Rover for a year and win R500,000 of bitcoin from Luno.