The Virtual Sunshine Tour (VST) will be taking it to the next level this weekend in a first for South African professional golf – a virtual golf knockout tournament.
The VST Knockout powered by Gauteng Provincial Government will feature a total of eight golfers from the Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour competing against each other in a knockout format on Saturday 6 June and Sunday 7 June, and which will be streamed live on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.
In another significant move, Soweto Country Club will be the host virtual course of this tournament. This brings this iconic golf club, which has undergone a comprehensive refurbishment by the Sunshine Tour and in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government and a host of private and public benefactors, into an entirely new digital space.
“We are extremely excited about this next phase of the Virtual Sunshine Tour. This is part of our greater strategy to engage with and reach a new audience on platforms where they wouldn’t normally consume golf,” Thomas Abt, the Deputy Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said at the launch of the tournament on Thursday.
“It has been extremely difficult to have no opportunity to play live golf, and this has been a challenging time for all of us in South African golf. As a Tour, our foremost priority is to give our member players the chance to earn a living, and we cannot do that at this time. We also need to give our sponsors value during this time. So we’ve had to reinvent ourselves somewhat, and the Virtual Sunshine Tour has definitely gained momentum. No other professional sport that we know of in South Africa has had this kind of consistent virtual presence during lockdown, so we are very proud of what we’ve achieved this far. This tournament is another important step in that growth.”
The format of the VST Knockout powered by Gauteng Provincial Government will see four matches played online on Saturday 6 June from 12:00 to 17:30. The semi-finals and final will be played on Sunday 7 June. The first semi-final will be played from 12:00 to 13:00, followed by the second semi-final from 13:30 to 14:30. The final will take place from 15:00 to 16:00.
The eight professionals will compete for a total of R6 500 in prize money, with the winner earning R3 000.
Sunshine Ladies Tour professional Lejan Lewthwaite is one of the eight professionals who will compete this weekend. “I jumped at the chance to be a part of this because I’m just itching to be competitive in some way again,” she said.
“It’s been tough as a professional athlete to stay focused during this COVID-19 lockdown and as we wait for golf courses to re-open, so in that sense, I think the Virtual Sunshine Tour has been an awesome concept.”
Sunshine Tour professional Heinrich Bruiners said he is equally excited about the chance to compete in a virtual golf tournament for the first time. “I’m so excited just to be able to be competitive again and get those competitive juices flowing.”
Abt also paid tribute to the significance of Soweto Country Club being the virtual host this weekend.
“It’s very exciting. The Soweto Country Club project was the vision of our Commissioner, Selwyn Nathan, and all of us who have worked on it have been privileged to be a part of it. The Gauteng Provincial Government have been amazing partners with us on this project, and we’re very pleased to give them this opportunity to showcase that even more in the virtual space.”
VST Knockout powered by Gauteng Provincial Government Match Schedule:
Saturday 6 June
VST Match 1: Thabiso Ngcobo vs Dwayne Basson (12:00 – 13:00)
VST Match 2: Dylan Mostert vs Nikhil Rama (13:30 – 14:30)
VST Match 3: Casandra Hall vs Oliver Bekker (15:00 – 16:00)
VST Match 4: Heinrich Bruiners vs Lejan Lewthwaite (16:30 – 17:30)
Sunday 7 June
VST Semi-Final 1 (12:00 – 13:00)
VST Semi-Final 2 (13:30 – 14:30)
VST Final (15:00 – 16:00)