About Us

A short history of the SA Senior Tour

 

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Year

1988

We go back to 1988 when Denis Hutchison and Tony Rice moved to create events for South African professional players who reached the age of 50 and over. Their target and aim was to take golf to the outlying country areas adding value by teaching, selling product, and playing in small pro-ams at the small-town golf clubs. During this time-frame Denis and other 50+ year olds played on the European Senior Tour alongside legends like Tommy Horton, Neil Coles, Brian Barnes, Brain Huggett, Christie O’Conner, Malcolm Gregson, and Maurice Bembridge. The European concept was brought to SA for the over 50’s. Also, during this time Gary Player and Harold Henning were campaigning in the USA and making a tidy living out over their over 50-year-old tour events.
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Year

1995 – 1998

The South African Senior Open is born with players like Simon Hobday and John Bland emerging as the early champions. Bigger events took place with an American insurance company investing in SA (Templeton) for two years. Gary Player and Lee Trevino participated with some prominent other South African champions like Allan Henning and John Fourie. It is worth noting that the winners of these events were South Africans of colour, who had few opportunities to compete with other golfers before 1994. Solly Sepeng and Gabriel Putsoe won the respective events held at Dainfern – a real boost for the new South Africa.

Many South African senior category golfers like Gary Player, John Bland, Hugh Baiocchi, Simon Hobday, Bobby Verwey and John Fourie were making a living on the USA and European Senior Tours. It is noted that South Africa’s greatest golfer, Gary Player won all the world senior ‘majors’ on offer, including three Senior British Opens. Bobby Verwey and John Fourie also each won a Senior British Open. Simon Hobday won the US Senior Open against the great players of yester-year during this period.

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Year

1999 – 2003

Two entrepreneurs, Messer’s Loeb and Smith, took to prospecting for funding for the Senior Tour with success. The tour membership grew from its early beginnings and Rinus van Niekerk was instrumental in presenting the members’ first constitution in 2001 that was contested for a few years. Richard Lyon became involved and events were co-sanctioned with the Senior Tour and the series the ‘Ladies and Legends’ was created, where the senior professionals competed against the young lady professionals.
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Year

2004 – 2009

The Senior Tour stagnates with little activity and much internal politics. South African players like Mark McNulty, Gavin Levenson, Tony Johnson, Bobby Lincoln, John Bland, Hugh Baiocchi, Ian Palmer, John Mashego, Neville Clarke, and Paul van Biljon competed on the USA and European Senior Tours. Bland was able to win in the USA and Europe while McNulty, and Biaocchi won multiple times on the US Senior Tour. Johnson, Levenson and Lincoln won events on the European Senior Tour. Mark McNulty also won the Tradition, considered a ‘Major’ on the Champions Tour in the USA.
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Year

2010 – 2020

four,areA new Committee was installed in 2010 and in 2013 a non-profit organisation was formed (NPA) with a MOI and Rules and Regulations in line with other world golf organisations. A Board of Directors and a Players Committee was established with limited event schedules.

The SA Senior Open was re-introduced from the last played event won by Neville Clarke in 2003 at Graceland, together with the SA Senior Masters initially played at Witbank and now with its home at Silver Lakes. The latter was the initiative of Jannie Ackerman and 2020 will be the 9th hosting of this tournament.

The country’s economy has experienced low growth for a decade now and there remains a challenge for the Board to secure investors to fund senior tour events. However, sponsorship contracts have been secured with government and the private sector over the past few years and things were looking promising until Covid-19 put the spanner in the works. In 2018 the Senior Tour affiliated with the Sunshine Senior PGA Tour, which assisted with funding to help grow the Senior Tour. The funding came in as a loan agreement repayable in five year period. Order of merit events are now played under license from the ST, using the brand name “Sunshine Senior Tour”.

Currently, the Senior Tour can boast having some big names as members. Given that Gary Player has retired from competitive golf, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els are our front runners when we present and promote our larger events. Membership is growing in quality players who have turned 50 years of age. Chris Williams and James Kingston have done remarkably well on the European stage while players like Des Terblanche, Doug McGuigan, Grant Muller, and Brett Liddle have joined our membership this year. Mark McNulty continues to be our top draw card and has won four of the six events he has contested in past four years that included two SA Senior Opens and two SA Senior Masters.

It is a pity that Covid struck this year, as this has set us back from our visions and goals. A proper review and re-setting of our objectives is underway to enable opportunities for members and investors going into the future.

Ernie Els and Retief Goosen continue to do well on the Chapions USA Tour, with Ernie showing his class by winning twice in 2020.
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