Takudzwa Chitsiga–Sports Reporter
AS the R2 million FBC Zimbabwe Open Championship gets underway this morning at Royal Harare Golf Club and Chapman Golf Club, local and international professional golfers had mixed feelings ahead of the coming four days.
The FBC Zimbabwe Open Championship is making a comeback since 2018 and many players feel the return of the event is a welcome move for golf in this country and they are looking forward to the next four days.
South African Jean Hugo, a 1999 Zimbabwe Open winner and 18-time Sunshine Tour winner, believes returning to Zimbabwe in three years is good as he can enjoy the hospitality and competition in the field of play.
Hugo has won 18 career tournaments and comes as one of the front runners but believes golf is everyone’s game. Having last won the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge back in October 2019, the South African has been doing well
‘’I am very excited to be coming back to Zimbabwe after three years and I thank the Sunshine Tour for the opportunity. The game is looking promising after I had my practice round at Chapman on Tuesday everything is going on well and I look forward to the week.
“The round at Chapman was awesome and I am now ready for the finals. I last played at Chapman some 20 years ago and everything has changed with the shrubs I left there now full grown trees and it is a more challenging course now.
“I believe the best player will take to the podium on Sunday as we all have equal chances. I have been playing in the Sunshine Tour and my mind is relaxed and looking forward to the tournament,” said Hugo.
Local golfer Visitor Mapwanya, who arrived in the country on Tuesday from Cote d’Ivoire where he finished on position eight, is hopeful to do well back home after making his presence felt in the East and West Africa Golf Tours.
The Renco Mine-bred professional took the sport by storm as he has managed to maintain his form by competing in the Safari Tour regularly.
“I am very happy to be back home and looking forward to the tournament as it gives us a platform to showcase our talent. There will be tough competition but I am ready and looking forward to the tournament.
“There are strong players but with golf, it depends on the day and we cannot predict anything until after the opening rounds. My intention is to go out there and enjoy as much as I can and see how it goes.
“My aim is to do well and come out with as positive result,” said Mapwanya.
Another Zimbabwean player, who earlier this year won the Arenel Pro-Am on his return to the sport after seven years, Ignatius Mketekete, believes there is a lot to look forward to as the local guys got some game-time before the main event.
“Our worry was always not having some game-time before the main event but this time we had two tournaments which saw me reconsidering my position as I had left the sport.
“I just made a return to do what I like doing best and I think I am good to go as I have managed to compete with some players who have been in the game while I had changed profession.
“I am feeling good and everyone is now confident that the game is still there and are raring to go. It was a hard decision to quit golf for seven years but I will count on my experience going into the FBC Zimbabwe Open,” said Mketekete.
Zimbabwe’s Ryan Cairns, who has managed over 15-top-ten finishes and won a single Sunshine Tour tournament, is happy that they can now play again and is hopeful he will do his best as he was not practising like he used to do before.
“The game is coming at a good time as we are in winter and the greens can be favourable so I am ready for the tournament. I am in the right frame of mind and my attitude is good but I have not been working as hard as I used to do. As a Royal Harare player who has known Chapman from my junior days, I think that will give me something to look forward to.
“I will do my best and welcome any result of the day,” said Cairns.
South African Rupert Kaminsi, who turned professional in 2018, is one to look forward to as he has eight top ten finishes in the three years he has played as a professional.
Although he is yet to win a title, Kiminsi said he is happy to visit Zimbabwe for the first time and appreciated the course conditions at both golf courses.
“I am very happy to be playing my first Zimbabwe Open and my first visit to Zimbabwe. I am enjoying every moment and the courses are championship courses. They are very challenging I am looking forward to a competitive four days of golf.
“There is going to be a lot of competition but I have played a lot in the Sunshine Tour and I am expecting to do well again this week,’’ said Kaminsi.
Bulawayo Golf Club player Brian Gondo is hopeful that a local player will take to the podium this time around as the players have been practising hard ahead of the tournament.
“We are very grateful and looking forward to the tournament and it will be a good thing to see one of us taking to the podium in several years,’’ added Gondo.
FBC Holdings Limited headline the list of sponsors for the event, which has a lucrative prize fund of R2 million.
The associate sponsors are Old Mutual, Delta Beverages and OK Zimbabwe while the anchor sponsors, include Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe and Sahwira Events.