Having a local winner was a wonderful windfall for the Nedbank Golf Challenge but their hard work in ensuring corporate visitors and the general public had plenty to do off the course should bear fruit in increased spectator numbers next year, according to new tournament director Dan Sevel.
Branden Grace provided the first South African winner in 10 years when he sealed a tense oneshot triumph at Sun City at the weekend, which just added to a sense that there is a new energy surrounding the event.
“It was the ideal result for us, wonderful to have a South African winner and it was desperately needed. Branden was also very complimentary about the course and he really helped our sponsors with corporate visits, he’s such a friendly guy.
And of course his caddy Zach Rasego comes from close to Sun City.
“We put a lot of effort into our hospitality and making sure the general public had things to do. It’s difficult to walk the course for five or six hours in that heat, so we made sure there were lots of activities and the weekend was nice and busy, we had decent numbers overall,” Sevel said.
It was obviously a blow that Henrik Stenson withdrew due to injury just before the tournament and the likes of Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose also skipped the penultimate event on the Race to Dubai.
“Our biggest challenge is the field and it is vital we have big names, so we don’t just become another European Tour event. It is a pity we didn’t have two or three guys from the top five on the Order of Merit and we would like to go big on our marketing earlier on, but some of the golfers make up their minds very late.
“But it was still an amazing tournament, there was a special vibe, and the European Tour loved the new layout. The players were also very complimentary and they loved the vibe too. There was most definitely a new energy around the event and we just concentrated on letting the professionals do the jobs they normally do without dictating to them. We gave them freedom to express themselves,” Sevel said.