The historic inaugural Mangaung Open tees off at both the Bloemfontein and Schoeman Park Golf Clubs on Thursday morning in what is a first for the city.
The event, which is co-sanctioned by both the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour, will be the first-ever international golf tournament to be staged in Bloemfontein.
The tournament will see 216 golfers from across the world teeing up on Thursday and will include international players from Botswana, Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and Zimbabwe.
All eyes will be on the local player, Wilco Nienaber, but a player such as Alex Haindl, who plays out of the Schoeman Park Golf Club can also stake a claim this week.
Haindl told Bloemfontein Courant that it is nice being able to play in an international competition in his home town for a change.
“It’s great for Bloemfontein to host a tournament like this and I’m especially proud of Schoeman Park, where I’m a member, for the great shape they have managed to get the course in. It’s evident that they put huge effort into the presentation and condition of the course.
“Yes, it certainly is nice being able to sleep in my own bed and spend time with my family at a tournament for a change. Knowing the courses should definitely have its advantage but my form has been terrible over the last three to four months, so I’m just hoping to get a solid week behind my back.
“I played with Wilco the last couple of days and his game looks incredible. Like all great players he has a way of making everything look really easy. So, between him, JC Ritchie and the big-name Europeans who are here it would take quite the effort for anyone else to have a chance at winning this week.”
JC Ritchie, who hails from Standerton, is also a play to watch as he enters the tournament following back-to-back wins at the Cape Town Open and the Jonsson Workwear Open in Durban over the past fortnight.
The Mangaung Open will be played from Thursday until Sunday. – MORGAN PIEK