Tuesday, 13 April 2010
With Ernie Els the focus of the 2010 Vodacom Business Origins of Golf Tour series, it’s only right that the opening tournament tees off on the first Ernie Els signature golf course in Gauteng on Wednesday.
The Gardener Ross Golf and Country Estate is in immaculate condition as it prepares to host the first of six tournaments on a series dubbed “Origins Goes Easy” as it honours the career of the triple Major champion and former world number one.
And Sunshine Tour professional Darren Fichardt is amongst those who have welcomed the tribute to one of the most influential figures in South African golf.
“Ernie is the ultimate. He’s a true South African. Even though he’s had so much success he’s the most down-to-earth guy you’ll ever meet. It’s an honour having his name to these tournaments,” Fichardt said on the eve of Wednesday’s first round.
Fichardt remembers being in the final group with Els and Retief Goosen in the 2005 South African Open at The Links, and says it remains one of the highlights of his career.
“Seeing those two giants of the game go at each other was awesome. Ernie lost out to Retief in the end. But it was amazing just to be part of that.”
Els has pledged to make an appearance on this year’s series, and will most likely do so in the final tournament at his Oubaai course near George.
“I’ve spent most of my life flying the South African flag on fairways around the world, and I’ve always competed to the best of my ability as a proud South African sportsman. It’s very satisfying to know that this is going to be recognised in a series such as the Vodacom Business Origins of Golf Tour,” said Els.
Gareth Tindall, the commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, also added his support for Els as the focus of this year’s series.
“Ernie has done so much to promote South African golf over the years, and serve as inspiration for our professionals. Likewise, the Vodacom Business Origins of Golf Tour has done much to help South African professionals and to prepare them for international careers. It’s fitting that in 2010, a significant date in our sporting history, the two will come together in what will be one of the highlights of our season.”
Charl Schwartzel is the biggest drawcard in the field as he returns to the Sunshine Tour following his debut at the Masters last week. Multiple European Tour winner James Kingston, Asian Tour winner James Kamte and Brandon Pieters – a three-time winner on this series last year – will also tee it up this week.
And former international rugby referee Andre Watson and former Springbok Breyton Paulse are amongst the select group of invited amateurs taking part.
This year’s series will again make a significant contribution to charity through the Birdies for Kiddies campaign, with the Vodacom Foundation donating R100 to charity for every birdie made by the professionals and invited amateurs during the six tournaments. The 2009 series raised over R3-million for charity.