Johannesburg - The rebirth of Soweto Country Club took another major step forward on Wednesday when the PGA Tour, European Tour, Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour, The R&A and the City of Johannesburg all came together to officially break ground on the rebuilding of the golf course in South Africa’s most iconic township.
The PGA Tour is the latest to lend its considerable support towards the rehabilitation of Soweto Country Club through a significant financial contribution for the rebuilding of the golf course and other golf development initiatives at the club.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said they were delighted to grow their relationship with the Sunshine Tour through a collaboration on this significant project.
“The PGA Tour's global reach has been enhanced by the significant contributions of South Africa and its players. World Golf Hall of Famers Gary Player, Bobby Locke, Nick Price, Ernie Els and many more from South Africa have all played important roles in the growth of the PGA TOUR and in golf in general,” said Monahan.
“South Africa also served as the backdrop for one of the most dramatic moments in golf history, the very exciting 2003 Presidents Cup. With this rich history in mind, we are more than pleased to help golf grow in South Africa with this very worthwhile endeavour at Soweto Country Club.”
On Wednesday, the PGA Tour was joined by senior representatives from the other tours and golf governing bodies as well as the leading sponsors who have been part of this project from the start in the official ceremony to mark the start of the rebuilding of the Soweto golf course.
The golf course was designed by South African Sports Hall of Fame and World Golf Hall of Fame legend Gary Player, and the Black Knight design team will lead the redesign of the golf course at no cost as part of the overall upgrade of this historic club.
New fairways, bunkers, tee boxes, greens and an irrigation system are all planned. Officials are currently in the process of finalizing the golf course construction service provider, with the guidance and approval of Gary Player.
The golf course redesign is the next step in the refurbishment of Soweto Country Club.
The new clubhouse has already been completed, as well as a new practice facility including putting green and bunker practice area, a conference centre to ensure greater financial sustainability for the club beyond its golf course, a new halfway house, and a fence along two boundaries of the golf course for security purposes. A wall has been built along the south boundary of the golf course, and a fully operational pro shop is in the process of being constructed.
The development drive, in partnership with GolfRSA and the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) as the official golf development bodies in South Africa, will be given further impetus by the building of a golf academy at the club and the opening of a new SAGDB chapter under the name of the Dr Andrew Mlangeni Chapter in honour of the legendary anti-apartheid activist and longest standing member of Soweto Country Club.
“We are extremely grateful to the PGA Tour for their major contribution to the Soweto project. It is thanks to the PGA Tour and the resounding support of all of our other major partners in world golf, the City of Johannesburg and our leading sponsors that we can today take another important step in the vision of turning Soweto Country Club into a true beacon of hope for the young golfers of this area,” said Selwyn Nathan, the Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour.
The R&A has also supported the project as part of its ongoing contribution to the development of golf in South Africa.
“We are encouraged by the great progress Soweto Country Club has made in rebuilding its golf facilities, both for the benefit of the local community and to enable more people to enjoy participation in golf. The R&A intends to continue its longstanding support of golf and its growth using proceeds from The Open, an event in which South African golfers have excelled for decades,” said Duncan Weir, Executive Director - Golf Development, The R&A.
Grant Hepburn, the Chief Executive Officer of GolfRSA, welcomed the support.
“We thank the R&A for their support of this project, which is situated in the perfect area for us to make a real difference to historically disadvantaged golfers. The South African Golf Development Board has run development programmes at Soweto Country Club for nearly 20 years, and this enhancement of the facility is welcome news indeed.”
The European Tour has a long history in South Africa and Keith Pelley, the Chief Executive Officer of the European Tour, said their support of this project added a new dimension to this relationship.
“The refurbishment of Soweto Country Club is making excellent progress under the Sunshine Tour. One of Soweto’s pioneering professionals, Vincent Tshabalala, was a winner of the Open de France on the European Tour in 1976, and we are proud to be a part of the rebirth of this historic club.”
Soweto Country Club’s Vice Chairperson Roger Skidow said the start of the golf course refurbishment was a major step forward in the overall rehabilitation of the club.
“We are so appreciative of the support from the PGA Tour and the other major tours, partners and sponsors that have enabled us to take this next step in our growth. The faith shown in us as a community is helping us build a future for the youth of Soweto.”
Herman Mashaba, the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, also expressed his gratitude for the global support of this project.
“We are extremely grateful to the PGA Tour, Sunshine Tour, The R&A and the European Tour in particular for sharing our passion to create a facility that South Africa’s next generation of golfers can be proud of. To have the support of the international golf community is a strong statement of the power of golf to make a real difference in the lives of the people of Soweto.”(From left to right): Dr Andrew Mlangeni (South African anti-apartheid activist and the oldest surviving member of Soweto Country Club), Herman Mashaba (Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg), Ty Votaw (PGA Tour Executive President Global Business Affairs) and Selwyn Nathan (Sunshine Tour Executive Director) at the official groundbreaking to mark the beginning of the refurbishment of the Soweto Country Club golf course. Photo credit: Tyrone Winfield