Friday, February 1, 2013

No Hope for the Tournament of Hope?

The Tournament of Hope was supposed to be one of the richest tournaments in golf, and it was supposed to be the centerpiece of a global AIDS awareness effort led by the South Africa-based Sunshine Tour.

It was originally supposed to be the fifth World Golf Championship. And it was supposed to be played for the first time in November 2013.

Now, none of those suppositions are coming to fruition.

Will they ever? Depends on who you ask, depends on how optimistic you are. Our guess is: No.

The Tournament of Hope was originally announced a couple years ago, to great fanfare, because it was supposed to be the fifth tournament with the WGC designation, and because it was planned to offer an $8.5 million purse.

It lost the WGC designation early on, however, when the tournament couldn't meet its 2012 launch date. Its debut was pushed back to 2013, and now that debut has also been canceled.

The International Federation of PGA Tours press release says that the event "has been postponed." But the Sunshine Tour's own press release uses stronger terminology: the Tournament of Hope "has regrettably been put on hold for the foreseeable future."

The Sunshine Tour announcement continues:

Scheduled for a first staging in late November 2013, the Tournament of Hope is sanctioned by all the member Tours that make up the International Federation of PGA Tours. However, the Sunshine Tour has confirmed that its commercial partner has been unable to fulfill the expectations of potential sponsors for various reasons beyond its control.

While the necessary funding for the event was originally in place, the recent weakening of the Rand has added more pressure to the budget and it has been decided it would be unreasonable to expect sponsors to commit to the event at this stage.

Recent weakening of South Africa's Rand currency is cited as contributing to budget problems, and the cash crunch is put in stark terms by the Sunshine Tour's executive director Selwyn Nathan: "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."

But is there no hope for the Tournament of Hope? There might be a ray of hope in the closing paragraphs of the Sunshine Tour's announcement of the postponement:

The Sunshine Tour has been engaged in ongoing discussions with Sun International and Nedbank to explore the possibility of combining the Tournament of Hope and the Nedbank Golf Challenge. With these recent developments, both Sun International and Nedbank have reaffirmed their commitment both to the growth of the game in South Africa and to the staging of the 33rd Nedbank Golf Challenge in its traditional year-end period within the Sunshine Tour’s 2013 summer swing.

Further announcements about the date and the final format of the 2013 Nedbank Golf Challenge will be made in due course.

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