Millionaire boys’ club still running
Harare ‑ For the first time in three years, there was no Major winner from Southern Africa on the US and European PGA Tours but the region’s best golfers continued to rake in millions of dollars in their seasonal dance with the finest players in the world.
Three years ago, Louis Oosthuizen held the globe spellbound with a stunning performance en-route to a seven-stroke victory in the British Open at St Andrews and, the following year, Charl Schwartzel, powered to an epic triumph at the Masters to win his first green jacket.
Last year, the legendary Ernie Els rolled back the years and held his nerve on the final day, as Australian hotshot Adam Scott collapsed in the final round at Royal Lytham, as a South African golfer won the British Open for the second time in three years.
But this year, it was a barren season, in terms of their quest for Major titles, for the region’s finest golfers but while the big titles eluded them, the big bucks continued to roll into their very fat bank accounts.
There could be more, in terms of the rich pickings, for some of them should they emerge victorious, in home conditions, in the Nedbank Golf Challenge which comes to an end at Sun City this weekend with its winner guaranteed a cool US$600 000.
The Nedbank Golf Challenge, which has a total of US$2 million in prize money, is the richest sporting tournament in South Africa and will this year open a new chapter when a 30-member field battles for silverware.
It’s the largest field of golfers to ever compete in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Schwartzel defended his Alfred Dunhill Championship in Mpumalanga, South Africa, last weekend when he shot a four-under 68 on Sunday for a comfortable four-shot victory in what was his first tour on the European PGA Tour this season.
It was the his third Alfred Dunhill Championship title at Leopard Creek with his 17-under-par total of 271 enough to beat a strong field that included Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, playing in South Africa for the first time in 16 years.
''This tournament has been very good to me,'' Schwartzel told reporters.
''I've had lots of seconds here as well. Probably for the rest of my golfing career this will always be a special one.''
Swartzel did not have a stellar season on the US PGA Tour this season, playing in 19 tournaments, and twice making the Top Three and five times making the Top 10 but even without a tour victory, the millions flowed into his accounts.
His best finish was a third place at the Byron Nelson Championships but he still pocketed US$2 256 723, the biggest pay cheque collected by a golfer from this part of the world this year alone.
That brought his career earnings to a staggering US$18 425 038.00.
Zimbabwe’s De Jonge did not have his breakthrough US PGA Tour win, as had largely been expected by most experts, this year after his strong performances in the previous year.
De Jonge, once again, spent most of his time in the United States although, for a refreshing change, he went to Australia and played in the Australian Masters this year before coming to South Africa for the Alfred Dunhill Championships and the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
He played in 30 events on the US PGA Tour this year, had four top 10 finishes, and his best return was sixth place in the Waste Management tourney, while making 25 cuts in 30 of the tournaments he featured in.
There were some rich pickings, for De Jonge, this year who took home US$1 795 244 this year alone to bring his career earnings to US$9 073 789.
Richard Sterne, of South Africa, also had a good run on the European PGA Tour where he pocketed US$1 460 813 this year, to take his career earnings to US$7 807 498.
Both Branden Grace and Tim Clark clocked above the US$1 million mark in earnings on the golf course this year.
Grace, who is tipped for greatness in the future, took a cool US$1 242 428 to take his career earnings to US$5 035 105 while his fellow South African, Clark, pocketed US$1 355 952 this year to bring his career earnings to US$23 934 536.
Oosthuizen did not play much on tour this year, featuring in only 12 tournaments, and he could not break beyond the US$1 million mark as he took US$497 208 this season to bring his career earnings to US$14 561 037.
Retief Goosen also played in just eight tournaments this year and pocketed US$315 702 but when you consider his career earnings of US$39 930 366, then it brings into context the great career that he has had.
But no one, among the active players from this region, has had a career like that of Els. The great man took US$1 173 761 this year, in 19 events, to take his career earnings to a staggering US$63 592 683.