By Carlos Kambaekwa
Namibia’s leading professional golfer Trevor Dodds is back in familiar territory and will lead a field of 139 golfers when the MTC Namibia PGA Championship tees off at the Windhoek Country Resort Golf Course this morning at 07h00.
After the establishment of the Namibia Professional Golf Association in 2003, the Association under the leadership of Adre Basson, himself a professional golfer of note, wasted little time and extended an invitation to the Sunshine Tour to co-sanction the tourney, with the primary aim of developing both professional and amateur golfers in Namibia.
Apart from Basson and Dodds, three other golfers Joe Nawanga, Christopher Durant and Alec Williams complete the Namibian contingent of professionals in the 3-day tourney.
In four short years, the tournament has grown in leaps and bounds and established itself as one of the premier events on the much-sought Sunshine Tour schedule.
The maiden edition of the MTC PGA Championship carried a purse of half-a-million dollars and was won by former South African Open Stroke play champion Mark Murless, who owns two titles on the Sunshine Tour including the 2004 MTC Namibia PGA Tour.
Fellow South African and five times Sunshine Tour winner Thomas Aitken capped a fine showing the following year as he shook off the advances of Michiel Bothma, Sean Farrell and Werner Geyer to win his 2nd Winter Swing Order of Merit and his 6th professional title with an empathic 4-stroke victory over his compatriots.
Last year, a young and relatively inexperienced golfer going by the name of Anton Haig jetted into Windhoek, fresh from his victory at the Malaysian Masters on the Asian Tour and staved off the momentum of the chasing pack to claim his second successive Sunshine Tour title in impressive wire-to-wire fashion.
The professional tournament will be decided over 54 holes of stroke play, and there will be a cut to 65th placed professionals and those tying on the same score at the conclusion of round 2, with all contestants that make the cut earning a free passage to the final round.
MTC Namibia has upped the prize money this year by adding another N$100 000 to the N$600 000 which was at stake last year, with the winner taking home a handsome N$110 950, while a Volvo C30 T5, valued at approximately N$285 000, is up for grabs for the first professional to hit a hole in one on the 9th hole during the final round.
As has become customary practice in major sport events on Sub-Saharan soil, South Africa is heavily represented with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Cameroon, Madagascar, Lesotho Kenya, Malawi and Swaziland making up the rest of the African connection, while golfers from Wales, England, Germany, Brazil, China and Sri Lanka complete the list of the foreign invasion
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Hennie Otto from the Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Gauteng is a seven time Sunshine Tour winner including the 2002 Nashua Masters, while Adilson da Silva tested victory four times on the tour with two victories already under his belt this season.
Da Silva, who hails from the Suncoast Classic Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Club in the Eastern Cape, holed a 75-footer for a birdie to beat former South African Amateur Open winner Warren Abery at the first play-off hole in the VOG Eastern Cape title.
Abery boasts five Sunshine Tour titles to his credit, amongst them, the 2006 Telkom PGA Championship and Nashua Masters.
Simply duped the “King of Opens” Marc Cayeux is an eight-time Sunshine Tour winner who holds the titles of two Zambian Opens, a Swaziland and Botswana Open amongst his armory.
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The slightly built Zimbabwean Tongoona Charamba won 12 amateur events in his native country including the 2002 Zimbabwean Amateur Match & Stroke Play and won his maiden Sunshine Tour when he clinched the SAA Pro-Am Invitational in Cape Town last year.
After a decade of frustrations on the circuit, the Tour’s journeyman Vaughn Groenewald finally broke through for his maiden victory at last year’s Vodacom Origins of Golf Gauteng, and followed his feat with another fine display in the Platinum Classic for his 2nd title in just over five months.
Born in Liverpool, Englishman Chris Williams has been on the tour for some 30 odd summers and is a two-time winner on the Asian Tour with eight victories on the Sunshine Tour including the 2002 Telkom PGA Championship and the 2003 Seekers Travel Pro-Am.
The 48-year-old Merseysider, nicknamed “The Ginger Cat” because of his reddish hair and freckles, was named Player of the Year for the 1998 Asian Tour.
Williams also carries another nickname “Noah” because of his constant flirtation with the arc of his golf swing and sometimes goes by the name of “Wild Dog” after he chased a group of wild dogs during a tournament on the Fairways of the Hans Merensky Golf Club in Phalaborwa, bordering the Kruger National Park.