By Michael Vlismas
The Telkom Business PGA Championship, South Africa’s second oldest professional tournament, has provided some great moments throughout its history. Next week’s tournament could be another as Jaco van Zyl attempts to win a third title despite a dislocating kneecap.
Van Zyl has confirmed he will have surgery after the 3-6 April tournament at Country Club Johannesburg to repair his injured right knee and do some work on the left one. He’s expected to be out for the rest of the year.
It may not be on the same level as Tiger Woods’ 2008 US Open victory with a severely injured knee, but for a South African golfer the chance to win a third edition of one of this country’s three 'majors' is a strong incentive to tee it up no matter what.
The Telkom Business PGA Championship stands alongside the South African Open and the South African Masters as the 'majors' of the local game.
Since it teed off in 1923, this championship has been won by the greats of Southern African golf, including Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Mark McNulty, Dale Hayes and David Frost.
It has witnessed the greatest scoring in the history of the local game, such as when Louis Oosthuizen won by 14 shots in 2007, the biggest 72-hole winning margin in the history of the Sunshine Tour.
It has been the site of the first victory by a Frenchman on the Sunshine Tour, when Gregory Bourdy won in 2006.
It has played a major part of the global growth of the European Tour. The championship was the first South African tournament to be co-sanctioned with the European Tour in 1995, providing the spark for what would become the Tour’s global strategy to co-sanction with other tours.
And it’s survived some challenging sponsorship obstacles, with even former South African rugby chief Louis Luyt saving the tournament in 1972 with a sponsorship under the title of The Luyt Lager PGA Championship, and Gary Player on occasion sponsoring the event himself.
His injury aside, Van Zyl is well placed to claim a third title next week, especially considering his love of all tournaments sponsored by the national telecommunications provider.
He’s won two Telkom Business PGA Championship titles on the main summer section of the Sunshine Tour, and three Telkom PGA Pro-Am titles in the winter.