Big-money South Africa Tournament of Hope postponed, needs sponsor

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The proposed Tournament of Hope would be be co-sanctioned by southern Africa's Sunshine Tour and its prize money would count on the European Tour's Race to Dubai money list.
Gerald Imray
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Friday, February 01, 2013 | 5:49 p.m.

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa -- The South African golf tournament that billed itself as among the richest outside the United States, and a challenger to some of the world's top events, was postponed indefinitely Friday after organizers failed to secure sponsorship.

South Africa's Sunshine Tour said that the Tournament of Hope, which was to have prize money of $8.5 million, won't have its inaugural event in late November as planned and had been "put on hold for the foreseeable future."

The Sunshine Tour said it had been "unable to fulfill the expectations of potential sponsors for various reasons beyond its control."

The weakening of the South African currency "added more pressure to the budget," it said.

The event was to be co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the International Federation of PGA Tours, the organization that takes in all the major golf tours including the PGA Tour.

"It is deeply regrettable that we have had to take this decision," Sunshine Tour Executive Director Selwyn Nathan said. "However, we as a tour cannot be associated with an event that cannot deliver all of our sponsors' expectations at a fair price and therefore puts them and us at risk."

The Sunshine Tour now is trying to combine the tournament with the Nedbank Golf Challenge invitational at Sun City, which is Africa's richest tournament and played at a similar time of year.

The Tournament of Hope originally advertised itself as the richest outside the United States alongside the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. Its promised prize money would have been more than all four majors and on a par with the WGC events. Only the Players Championship is richer with prize money of $9.5 million.

But the event also was undermined and troubled by confusing and inaccurate announcements since the idea was first launched in 2011. The former head of the Sunshine Tour initially said it would have a $10-million prize fund, making it the richest tournament anywhere, and also would have WGC status.

Organizers tempered those expectations last year with a reduced prize and said it would not be the fifth WGC event. But it would be played in South Africa for the next 10 years, they said, starting this year.

It is now uncertain whether it will ever get off the ground.

"We will continue to work with the international federation (of golf tours) to implement suitable guarantees to sponsors who commit to the event, which will allow us to move forward to the first staging of the Tournament of Hope," Nathan said. "We look forward to making further announcements in due course that will provide clarity on the way forward in order to deliver this world-class event."