Investec Royal Swazi Open turns 50 in South Africa
26 Oct 2020
The Investec Royal Swazi Open, the second oldest golfing tournament in the country, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the year that Covid-19 all but wiped out competitive sport. The unique pro-am format means that the Investec Royal Swazi Open has been “the nursery for all our local golfers, for many decades,” says Larry Nestadt, the tournament’s long-time backer and promoter.
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Highlights - Investec Royal Swazi Open 2020
The Holiday Inn Golf tournament was born
Fiddian-Green, a keen golfer, decided to add a golf course to the hotel’s offering and in 1971 the Holiday Inn golf tournament was born. The pro-am format has continued to be played at the Royal Swazi Spa ever since, barring one year.
Investec Royal Swazi Open moves to South Africa
When was the first time the Royal Swazi Open was relocated?
“It’s quite sad that a tournament so shaped by the environment and country in which it was born will not be held on home ground, the year it turns 50. But Covid-19 forced our hand. We didn’t want to cancel the tournament on this significant milestone, and we didn’t know whether the borders would be open in time. So, the decision was taken to move it from one Sun International venue to another in South Africa,” says Selwyn Nathan the Sunshine Tour Executive Director.
Gary Player has played the Investec Royal Swazi Open a number of times, so it’s befitting for it to be held at his course in Sun City.
Selwyn Nathan, Sunshine Tour Executive Director
Who's won the Investec Royal Swazi Open?
Ahead of the tournament’s milestone birthday, McNulty had this to say, “Over the 22 odd years that I played in Investec Royal Swazi Open I have had some amazing memories. Without a doubt the one that sticks in my mind is the 29 under par I shot in 1987. As the event celebrates its 50th anniversary, I want to wish Investec and all the competitors an extremely successful week.”
“Great players who won at the Investec Royal Swazi Open have gone on to be Major Champions. I was lucky to win the event five times, which I will always cherish."Mark McNulty, five-time Investec Royal Swazi Open winner
A special tournament for the Dlamini father-daughter duo
Dlamini was the head professional at the Royal Swazi Golf Club for 15 years. He was passionate about golf development and mentored numerous up and coming young golfers through the Swaziland Golf Academy, which he founded. In 2014 his achievements were celebrated with an induction into the Southern African Golf Hall of Fame. A year later he died. Dlamini’s surviving daughter, Nobuhle, has taken in her father’s golfing footsteps and is now eSwatini’s rising star.
Women golfers getting more time in the sun
Dlamini reminisces about how important the Investec Royal Swazi Open tournament was in shaping her ambition to become a professional golfer. “I remember as a young girl when schools were closed, I got an opportunity to be a ball spotter on the 12th hole. It made me a little money, but most importantly it grew my big dream of becoming a professional golfer and playing overseas.
I got to see the best South African pros play at my home course. That became a great source of inspiration for me. I am grateful to still be playing at this time of the year as a lot of players have lost opportunities due to Covid-19.
Nobuhle Dlamini, defending woman champion
Nathan would like to see more women play the tournament. “I would love the Investec Royal Swazi Open to have more women golfers. I'm thrilled that Investec encouraged the addition of the ladies 6 ball.”
The secret to the Swazi Open's longevity and success
In 1998 when Hollard pulled out as a principal sponsor, Nestadt underwrote 50% and used his influence in the corporate sphere to bring further sponsors onboard. Investec has been the principal sponsor for twelve years.
“This will be my 46th year playing this tournament. I started playing there in the early days so it’s very dear to my heart."Larry Nestadt, Investec Royal Swazi Open promoter
Part of the tournament’s success lies with its unusual pro-am format. “It’s one of only two pro-ams in the country which is 72 holes. And the amateurs play every round, not only one round but four rounds with a different pro every day. The attraction for amateurs to play with pros is huge because one rarely gets that chance to play at this standard without being selected. Here you've got the choice of paying and coming yourself or being invited,” explains Nestadt.
The format of play also ensures the tournament is oversubscribed. It changed to a Modified Stableford format in 2003, which heightened the popularity of the event among amateurs, who enjoy the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the overall team score on their handicap index.
Early 1980's at Royal Swazi Open From L- R: Wayne Westner, Larry Nestadt, Errol Grolman and Michael Green
Breeding ground for professional growth
“There's been so much generosity and the opportunity for our young players to meet businessmen to see how they behave. To learn and to be able to question and find out how to improve their careers and things related to life, not just golf.”An example of such talent that found value in playing the Investec Royal Swazi Open, is South African pro-golfer Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Currently ranked 56th in the world, Bezuidenhout says the tournament was important in spring boarding his career.
“You meet so many people that go out of their way to help you in your career and I was fortunate enough to have met Michael Meeser and Mark Currie in 2016. They gave me a massive boost to set up my career to what it is today.”Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South African Pro-golfer