Sunshine Tour announces major development initiative

The Sunshine Tour announced the launch of the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage, a mini-tour dedicated to giving a wider cross section of professionals to play in competitive professional events.

“Stonehage is absolutely delighted to be sponsoring the Sunshine Big easy Tour,” said Stonehage chief executive officer Giuseppe Ciucci. “Stonehage has supported the development of golf through Ernie and his Foundation for over 10 years. We are proud to be involved with the Big Easy Tour at its inception stage and to have the opportunity to contribute further to the development of the game in South Africa. We hope this commitment will allow Stonehage to continue to assist with the discovery and development of real golfing talent under tournament conditions within South Africa, now and in years to come.”

The Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage gets underway at Crown Mines Golf Club on March 24, and it will be the first of 10 events which will be followed by a Tour Championship at a venue to be announced at a later date.

Sunshine Tour commissioner Gareth Tindall said, “As the Sunshine Tour continues to grow, we need to make sure we give more opportunities to develop skills in the professional game to a wider range of players, especially those who perhaps haven’t had many opportunities to excel in amateur golf ranks. The Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage provides exactly that.”

The Tour is named after three-time Major winner Ernie Els in recognition of his continued commitment to the development of the game in South Africa. “I commend the Sunshine Tour on this initiative to provide competitive playing opportunities for our up-and-coming professionals and I am very honoured that the Tour has asked me to put my name to the new mini Tour,” said Els from his US home in Florida. “The Big Easy Tour will help our young nation’s talent mature, develop their playing skills and take the next big step towards full Tour status. It’s a great format and I’m sure it will prove popular. Also, I am very excited that Stonehage, a company with which I have had a long association, has decided to sponsor the Big Easy Tour. They are a loyal partner of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation and this extension of their involvement in South African golf is wonderful to see.”

Professional golfers who received their cards at the Sunshine Tour 2011 Qualifying School played in Bloemfontein last year, and the top 30 at the Vusi Ngubeni Strokeplay played in Johannesburg in January are eligible to play on the Tour, as are those who finished from 71st to 150th on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

Each tournament will be played over two rounds, and, to begin with, all events will be in the Gauteng area, where the majority of golfers at whom the series is aimed live. That way, travel and accommodation costs will be alleviated for those players.

Each event will have R100,000 in prize money, with the Big Easy Tour Championship having a purse of R250,000.

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