Border and health restrictions delay return of Sunshine Tour

Sunshine Tour commissioner Selwyn Nathan, seen here during the 2017 Royal Swazi Open, says they are discussing plans for the 2020/21 season. Picture: Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

Organisers are considering a ‘Johannesburg swing’ in an attempt to relaunch the Sunshine Tour.

Though the Sunshine Tour has yet to announce its schedule for the 2020/21 season, tour commissioner Selwyn Nathan has confirmed they are discussing plans for a possible restart.

The coronavirus pandemic had wreaked havoc on the South African sporting calendar in recent months, with all activity and leagues suspended.

Recreational golf was given the green light by government to restart on June 13, with several golf courses around the country reopening, but usually in South Africa’s winter, the Sunshine Tour would enter in an African swing, which included tournaments in Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

With borders still closed, however, organisers had been scrambling to get any feasible schedule on paper.

“We’ve got some plans,” Nathan said.

“What we are hoping to do is get some answers from government and health authorities in South Africa to see if there’s an opportunity for us to start sometime mid-August.

“Now is not a good time at all if you can’t interact with anybody, so we’re hoping over the next six or seven weeks that things change, once we get a go-ahead from health authorities.”

On Monday, the PGA Tour confirmed that South African Dylan Frittelli had become the fourth golfer to test positive for coronavirus since the tour resumed on June 11.

Later in the day, American Harris English became the fifth PGA player to test positive for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the European Tour announced its revised 2020 schedule with a ‘UK swing’, which was expected to get underway from July 22 in the form of the British Masters.

The Sunshine Tour, according to Nathan, could do something similar with a ‘Johannesburg swing’ leg.

“I don’t see an opportunity for us to start playing events in the next five to six weeks,” he said.

“We might consider – if we can’t go to Zimbabwe or Kenya – doing something in Johannesburg in a bubble-like way, like they’ve done on the European Tour.

“We need to wait for the opportunity in order for us to make any decisions.”

This could also be hard on Sunshine Tour international members, however, who might not be able to travel and compete in local tournaments.

“What we need to do is hopefully have a calendar that has enough time to deal with things like travelling golfers to self-isolate when they arrive,” Nathan said.

“The safety of the players and those involved in the tournament… it’s something that we need to do correctly especially if it can potentially put people in harm’s way.”

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