Lack of clarity over official foreign currency exchange rate policy prior to the introduction of a formal inter-bank market in February was the main cause for the delayed staging of the Zimbabwe Open Golf Tournament, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Open Committee Livingstone Gwata has said.
Normally held during the Easter Holidays at the Royal Harare Golf Club course, the tournament has been moved to August 26, 2019.
Regarded as the jewel in the crown of professional golf in the country and bankrolled by a number of local corporates led by the major sponsor Old Mutual, the Zimbabwe Open golf tourney, is the richest professional golf event locally and one of the most prestigious tournaments on the Sunshine Tour schedule.
However, Zimbabwe has been facing foreign exchange related challenges amid high prevalence of illegal trading in hard currency, especially the US dollar.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe then introduced an inter-bank foreign exchange market to improve the distribution of foreign currency and remove the distortions that were besetting the market.
“Our premier international, Zimbabwe Open Golf Tournament, has run successfully on a yearly basis since resuscitation in the year 2010 and the 2019 Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open is expected to continue with our tradition of exceeding expectations.
“Our prestigious event has in the past been held in the first half of the year and we had in fact originally pencilled in the second week of April 2019 as the tournament week,” said Gwata.
“While our sponsors and partners were ready and willing, we were unable to accurately invoice them in the first two months of the year as we awaited resolution of the foreign currency rate uncertainty that persisted in the market. This was critical as the bulk of our staging costs are in South African rand.”
He continued: “The monetary policy announcements clarified the situation at the end of February 2019, leaving our sponsors and international players less than 4 weeks to finalise their marketing and travelling arrangements in good time.
“In the circumstances, we decided in consultation with our stakeholders to move the 2019 Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open to the week commencing Monday August 26 and ending with the final championship day on Sunday September 1, 2019,” he said.
Despite the delays Gwata believes that the waiting period will provide the leading professional golfers on the continent and beyond in a huge milestone for local golf ample time to prepare.
“The new arrangement was received with relief and delight by our sponsors, our local and international players and our service providers as it gives them adequate marketing and preparation time to present yet another world class show-piece.”
Old Mutual group marketing, communications and brand manager, Lawrence Mawoni, confirmed that they were prepared to sponsor the premier event, but the tourney failed to kick off due to “unforeseen” logistical circumstances encountered by the Zim Open Tournament organisers.
“I can confirm that we are still the prime sponsors but we couldn’t disburse funds due to complexities and logistical issues on Zim Open golf tournament organisers and we are looking forward to a the new date,” he said.
The previous tourney was sponsored to the tune of R2 million sponsorship package having been increased from R1,8 million with partners like Sahwira Events Management, ZOL, Golden Pilsener and Tongaat Hullets, among several others participating.
Old Mutual, the integrated financial services provider are the official sponsors of the prestigious tournament.
Bryce Easton is the defending champion of the prestigious tournament after winning the 2018 edition, becoming the ninth successive South African to win the country’s flagship golf tournament.
He walked away with R317 000.
The Durban-born 30-year-old professional fired a bogey free nine under-par 63 for a tournament total of 16-under to finish a shot ahead of compatriot Daniel van Tonder followed by Peter Karmis and Christian Basson who were a shot back on 13-under par.
Meanwhile, expectations are high for local professionals following an unimpressive show last year.
Royal Harare Golf Club professional, Ryan Cairns was the highest placed Zimbabwean on the leader board after carding his third consecutive 70 for a tournament total of six-under-par.
Much is expected from other Zimbabwean professionals Mark Williams, Robson Chinhoi, Marc Cayeux and Trainos Muradzikwa.