The Sunshine Ladies Tour will kick off in February 2014 with a series of six qualifying tournaments, sponsored by Investec, Sun International, SuperSport and Dimension Data, and will culminate in the inaugural Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
The leading 10 professionals at the end of the series will qualify for the prestigious finale, which will be played concurrently with the Sunshine Tour’s Chase to the Investec Cup, from 20-23 March.
WPGA chairman Margie Whitehouse, who has been the driving force behind the Sunshine Ladies Tour, hailed it as a giant step for women’s professional golf in South Africa.
“Women’s professional golf in South Africa was in a wasteland since 2009, but the return of the South African Women’s Open as a Ladies European Tour co-sanctioned event in April 2012, sparked a revival in the sport,” Whitehouse explained.
“When the new WPGA board was incorporated in October 2012, we acknowledged that our members and aspirant professionals were being forced to seek a competitive platform abroad.
“We set about immediately to create a local competitive platform for our players and amateurs, and we are absolutely delighted to have forged a strong alliance with the Sunshine Tour, and to have Investec, Sun International, Supersport and Dimension Data supporting the new Sunshine Ladies Tour.”
Dimension Data, Sun International and SuperSport will sponsor one qualifying event each, while Investec will sponsor the remaining three tournaments and the prestigious Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
“The six qualifying events will be 36-holetournaments and carry a prize fund of R100,000 each. We will run an Order of Merit to determine the leading 10 professionals that will qualify for the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies, where the pros will compete with 10 invited Investec clients in a 54-hole stroke play tournament,” Whitehouse said. “The Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies carries a purse of R300 000, as well as a R100 000 donation to the amateur winner’s charity of choice.”
The WPGA board will be making a further announcement regarding the dates and venues shortly, said Whitehouse. In the meantime, they are also hard at work securing more events, especially around the SA Women’s Open.
“The Ladies European Tour players has supported the SA Women’s Open very well in the last two years, and we are proud to confirm that the 2014 edition will be 72-hole, internationally televised event, at San Lameer Golf Estate from 16-19 October.
“We hope to secure sponsorship to offer one or two more events, because this would not only to make the trip to South Africa an even more attractive option for the world’s top players, but would create a fantastic opportunity for our local players to gain invaluable experience against international players.
“It will also excite and encourage our young golfers and cultivate a whole new focus for women’s golf in South Africa. With strong support from the corporate sector, we believe this can be achieved and we can build the Sunshine Ladies Tour into a strong, international Tour over the years.”
Sunshine Tour executive director, Selwyn Nathan, welcomed the launch of the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
“We are delighted with the increased number of tournaments and added support from Investec, Sun International and SuperSport for our valued and talented ladies golfers,” Nathan said.
Investec’s Janet Larsen commented on the great need to support women’s golf in South Africa.
“The South African Women’s Open is the only professional tournament on the calendar, leaving potential professional ladies having to qualify to play on the professional circuit outside of South Africa on the Ladies European Tour, the LPGA in the USA or the Asian circuit,” Larsen said.
“We made the decision to support women’s golf by incorporating a ladies element into the Investec Cup 2014, to indicate support for the commitment, enthusiasm, skill and personal development that is required to succeed in this sporting code.
“Women’s sport is an uncluttered market commercially, and we look forward to showcasing some of South Africa’s top female golfers as athletes and individuals.”