The winner of the Sunshine TourÂs Dimension Data Pro-Am to be played from February 17-20 will get an exemption into the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio from August 4-7.
There are four lucrative WGC events on the international calendar Â the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, WGC-Cadillac Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the WGC-HSBC Champions Â which are co-owned by the European Tour, the Asian Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour. Prize money for the four totals $32.5-million.
The change in the exemption ruling Â which previously gave the winner of the Vodacom Championship an entry into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Â came about because the Vodacom Championship had its last staging last February.
The allocation of the exemption to the Dimension Data Pro-Am winner is an indication of the significance of that event on the Sunshine Tour schedule, which is not solely due to its R3-million prize fund.
This year, Dimension Data Pro-Am entrants include defending champion Darren Fichardt as well as Thomas Aiken and JbeÂ Kruger, two Sunshine Tour players who are moving closer to breaking into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings.
In addition, 2008 SA Open champion James KingstonÂs name is listed amongst the entrants, together with 2008 Dimension Data Pro-Am champion James Kamte and four-time winner on last yearÂs Sunshine Tour, Jaco van Zyl.
The event is played over FancourtÂs three courses Â Montagu, Outeniqua and The Links Â over the first three days, with the final round decided on Montagu.
Last year, Fichardt held off a charge by Louis Oosthuizen who went on to become Open champion four months later.
Fichardt carded a 68 in his final round as Oosthuizen went six-under-par with his 66 to finish one stroke off FichardtÂs 16-under-par total of 16-under-par 273.
Hennie Otto was the beneficiary of the entry to the $8.5-million WGC event last year on the strength of his record-breaking 28-under-par nine-stroke victory over Kruger in the Vodacom Championship.
He subsequently finished in a share of 65th in Akron with rounds of 73, 72, 72 and 72 for a final total of nine-over-par 289 behind winner Hunter Mahan.
Otto was one of seven South Africans in the field, with Retief Goosen leading their performances with another of his raft of top-10 finishes: He shared third behind Mahan and Ryan Palmer.
Oosthuizen was ninth, Ernie Els 22nd, Tim Clark 58th, Charl Schwartzel 58th and Kingston 63rd.