EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zim Open: More than just golf

THE country’s premier golf tournament, the Zimbabwe Open, will be held at its traditional home, Royal Harare, in two weeks’ time after the organisers managed to put together a cocktail of sponsors to bankroll the R1,8 million needed to keep it on the Sunshine Tour.

There had been doubts that this tourney, which is more than a golf tournament in this country, would not be held this year following the end of the partnership deal between Delta Beverages, through their Golden Pilsener brand, and the organisers of the tournament last year.

Delta Beverages have been the title sponsor for the past five years in which the company has injected a substantial amount of funds into the tourney and help it to continue attracting some of the best golfers in Africa and beyond the continent.

But, in these tough economic times, even a company as big as Delta Beverages — who also are the biggest sponsors of football in this country — have limitations to what they can do.

They have to balance their books and with both their Zimbabwe Open and Premier Soccer League sponsorship deals coming to an end at the same time, the people at Delta Beverages had a lot of juggling to do as to which game will retain their patronage as the flagship sponsor and which one had to be sidelined and they ended up sticking with the PSL.

The more than $5 million which Delta Beverages invested into the PSL as part of a three-year sponsorship deal marked the biggest financial injection ever pumped into any sport in this country.

But Delta Beverages, crucially, haven’t abandoned golf.

They are still there, as part of a number of associate sponsors who are injecting $50 000 each into the tournament, who also include ZOL Zimbabwe, Tongaat Hulett and Sahwira Events Management, into this tournament.

Old Mutual are coming in as the main sponsor, after providing the biggest financial outlay for this tournament, and we are happy that such an arrangement, where a cocktail of sponsors have come together to ensure that the 2017 Zimbabwe Open will go ahead, has been thrashed out.

We are indebted to the people who have been working behind the scenes to ensure that the Zimbabwe Open has to be held, without fail, this year despite the economic challenges we are facing.

It’s refreshing that the organisers of the tournament refused to be bullied by the challenges they faced, to try and find a flagship sponsor who could splash R1,8 million, but instead, chose to be innovative and put together a number of sponsors who have ensured that the tournament will go ahead as scheduled.

We have already seen this with the way the English Premiership leaders have structured their sponsorship deal, from this season, scrapping the title sponsor because Barclays could not shoulder the huge financial burden that was needed, in the wake of the improved multi-billion dollar television deal, to retain that status.

The Zimbabwe Open is more than just a golf tournament for this country.

It is a mirror through which the world also view us, a huge sporting event that brings in scores of professional golfers to stay in this country for about a week, and when they return home they carry important sights and sounds — from this country — to their homelands.

In the past seven years, when this tournament has returned back on the radar, we have seen professional golfers coming from all over the world and when they return to their countries, they tell stories which paint our country as a beautiful place, which is in stark contrast to what is beamed by the hostile international media agencies, and that is priceless.

It’s a tourism initiative and we are disappointed that, for all its potential to be used as a marketing window for our country, given the huge number of foreign players who travel to this major sporting event every year, we haven’t seen the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority taking advantage of this show to market our country.

Hopefully, now that we have told them of the opportunities that this tournament presents, the ZTA officials will be there at Royal Harare in full force to ensure that they take advantage of the presence of scores of foreigners, men who travel the globe playing this game, to show them what our country can provide them as a holiday destination.

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