April 7, 2020 / 4:23 PM / 2 months ago

South Africa tour commissioner predicts difficult future for golf

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s Sunshine Tour has created a fund for players and caddies to provide financial assistance for the next two months, but commissioner Selwyn Nathan said the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic could take the game back 20 years.

FILE PHOTO: March 13, 2020; Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA; A course worker mows the green on the 18th hole after the cancellation of the 2020 edition of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Leading players on the men’s and ladies tour, as well as caddies, will be given an unspecified stipend in April and May to make up for the postponement of tournaments.

The tour has four co-sanctioned events with the European Tour but is on hold with scheduled tournaments outside South Africa in Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya all under threat.

“We will review the decision to suspend the tour on April 26 and then every 30 days thereafter, to see the health situation in all our countries, and to get the thinking of local authorities and sponsors,” Nathan told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“It is inevitable, I believe, that there will be a rejig of the calendar by the European Tour to fit in with the U.S. Open, PGA and Masters, and I think there will be a lot of haircuts.

“I don’t think guys will be playing for between 800,000 and 1.5-million euros (as a first prize) any more.

“In my opinion, and after speaking to people around the world, we could be winding the clock back to 2000.

“And for now that might be the smartest thing in sport, to go back to something that is more palatable for partners.”

FINANCIAL LOSS

Nathan believes the financial loss felt by the game’s sponsors during the coronavirus crisis will be passed on to golf.

“BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz aren’t making or selling cars. Turkish Airlines and KLM aren’t flying. Look at sponsors all around the world of sport, having to lay people off... I think there are going to be different priorities going forward.

“You might have to ask them for less and do more, and most important will be what your value proposition is.

“The retention you get might be based on how you budget through this period and how you behave going forward.”

The Sunshine and European tours have one immediate problem, the new date of the U.S. Masters, which will be staged from Nov. 9-15, coincides with the co-sanctioned Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, regarded as ‘Africa’s Major’.

The PGA Championship will now take place from Aug. 3-9, while the U.S. Open has been moved to Sept. 17-20.

“We will have to take our lead from the American calendar, but our slots (on the European Tour) are still nine months away,” Nathan added.

“I think they will need us like oxygen, and we will need them also to give our players something to play in.

“But nobody is going to be walking around as gung-ho as they were, not in any sporting sphere around the world.”

Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Ken Ferris

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