Takudzwa Chitsiga, Harare Bureau
SOUTH AFRICAN Lyle Rowe will headline this year’s Zimbabwe Open golf tournament when the event tees off this morning at Royal Harare.
Rowe is the defending champion after winning last year’s event at the same course and will return high in confidence.
Rowe is having a good 2016/17 season and is currently on position 28 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with two top 10 finishes since winning last year’s tournament.
According to the Sunshine Tour, Lyle represents Humewood Golf Club and had a distinguished amateur career.
He also won several Big Easy Tour titles and in 2014 he captured the Zambia Sugar Open having turned professional in 2011.
He endured a tough first season on the Sunshine Tour but has showed his mettle as he won his first ever Big Easy Tour Championship at Benoni Country Club in 2011.
Rowe took the Zimbabwe Open title last year with a tournament total of 11 under-par, giving him a two-stroke edge over Dylan Frittelli.
He managed to shoot a five-under-par 67 in Tuesday’s pro-am ahead of the tournament to give himself some confidence.
“I’m playing nicely at the moment,” he told the Sunshine Tour website.
“I played well in the pro-am yesterday. I’m rolling the putts quite nicely which is the main thing around this course. The greens are so good, so if you hole putts, you’re going to be up there.”
The 2015 champion Dean Burmester and 2014 winner Jbe’ Kruger are not in this field this year because Burmester is trying for a win on the European Tour following his Tshwane Open victory, while Kruger will be competing in the Asian Tour’s Panasonic Open in Japan.
A number of local players will also be in contention after witnessing South Africans dominating the event for several years.
The local contingent’s challenge will be spearheaded by top order of merit Mark Williams who is on position 48 while in-form Trinos Muradzikwa, Ryan Cairns, Tongo Charamba, Robson Saurombe, Phillip Tshuma, Brian Gondo, Greg Bentley, and Julius Kamalizeni will also be expected to do well.
Charamba believes a local can do well at this year’s event after becoming one of the few locals who made the cut last year.
Top professional golfer Tongo Charamba said he would be happy to see a local win the 2017 Zimbabwe Open.
The former Sunshine Tour winner believes anything is possible and would love to see one of his own make it this time around.
Zimbabwe Open now in its seventh year running after its return on the Sunshine Tour is still to be won by a local golfer.
With several South Africans taking to the field, the event has also never had a local winning it on home soil.
“I think we are up there and we will try our best and make sure we are well represented. I never doubt local talent and I know we can match the South Africans.
“Playing at home can give us an edge and I hope that will help a lot. Even the amateurs are playing well and it’s high time we saw an amateur taking to the podium,” Charamba said.
Charamba will play in the last ball at midday together with fellow Zimbabwean Ignatius Mketekete and South African Andre Nel.
The event will also see several amateurs taking part and they include Tonderai Masunga, Never Milanzi, David Amm, Liberty Gumisa, Tafara Mpofu who are the country’s leading amateurs.
Another amateur Arnold Burasho made it through the pre-qualifiers.
Only four locals have managed to win the Zimbabwe Open and they include Nick Price, Mark McNulty, Tony Johnstone and Anderson Rusike.
Rusike made history by becoming the only local to win it as an amateur back in 1984.