IN-FORM Zimbabwean professional golfer Robson Chinhoi is expected to lead an array of local golfers who will try and stop the South Africans dominance in the returning FBC Zimbabwe Open Golf Championship which tees off at Royal Harare and Chapman tomorrow.
The R2million tournament will see 192 players from across the globe taking part in the tournament that was last held in 2018.
Chinhoi, who has been doing well in the West and East African golf tours, will come into the championship with his head high after he recorded his best round in his professional career when he carded 12-under-par-60 in Cote d’Ívoire last weekend.
The 31-year-old Nyanga-born put on a good show in the last round of the Côte d’Ivoire Open at the President Golf Club in Yamoussoukro by firing 10 birdies and an eagle on his way to setting a new course record on Saturday.
Expected in the country from the West African country yesterday for the big tournament, Chinhoi, who missed out on the big prize in Cote d’Ivoire to Ghanaian, Vincent Torgah, by a single shot will be hunting for the big prize in Harare this week together with fellow top Zimbabwean professional golfers Ryan Cairns, Mairosi Katembenuka, Nyasha Muyambo, Clive Nguru, Ignatius Mketekete, Jack Allard, Brian Gondo and Ben Follet-Smith.
South African golfers have dominated the Zimbabwe Open since its return to the Sunshine Tour schedule in 2010, maintaining a perfect record before the competition was put on ice because of the Covid-19 in 2018.
The last local golfer to win the Zimbabwe Open was Mark McNulty back in 2000 while Mutare-born Dean Burmester, who won the 2015 edition, is now competing under the South African flag. This year’s edition provides an opportunity for the country’s locally-based professionals to finally end the long wait for a local winner. The FBC Zimbabwe Open field took shape after several amateur and juniors were incorporated.
Professional golfer Howard Bauti was the first to book a place after he carded a level-par 72 in the pre-qualifiers held at Chapman on Monday.
Bauti was part of the over 50 players who took to the course for the remaining 15 slots which were up for grabs.
Bauti was ahead of the only amateur, who also booked a place in the main event, Braydon Amm, who was tied on second place with William Lake. Amm, who is young brother to United States-based top amateur David Amm, was happy to have managed to book his place and looks forward to play against professionals for the first time in a high profile tournament.
“I am very happy to have managed to play well today (Monday) as Chapman is always a tough course. The scores can tell that it was difficult out there.
“I managed to keep my composure and it helped me as I had prepared well for the pre-qualifiers. My target is to go out there and enjoy my game in the first two rounds (of the Zimbabwe Open) then see what happens after that. I would love to make it to the final two rounds and I will remain focused,’’ said Amm.
The 14-year-old Hillside Golf Club-based junior golfer may make history if he makes it to the finals but says he will not be pressured to be compared to his elder brother, David, who has played in many Zimbabwe Open tournaments before.
“I will play my usual game and will not look much on what David has achieved although it is a motivator that he has a good record during his junior and amateur days,” added Amm.
Tafara Mpofu also managed to have a slot in the Zimbabwe Open so was his close friend Clive Nguru and Tich Musemburi.
Mpofu carded four-over 76 as Nguru and Musemburi were on four-over 78 together with Julius Kamalizeni.
However, it will be Mutare-based Amm who went all out to join other amateur and junior golfers like Keegan Shutt, Tariro November, Munashe Ndaruza, Clifford Sibanda, Michael Wallace, Clive Muchenje, Mathew Campbell, Rasheed Mahomed and Tawana Mangoma for the big stage. FBC Holdings Limited headline the list of sponsors for the event, which has a lucrative prize money 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.