15 November 2011
Professional golfers, celebrities, sports stars and business executives reached deep into their pockets at the 12th Gary Player Invitational to raise just over R2-million for a number of charities.
Over the four tournament days at Zimbali Coastal Resort, from 10 to 13 November, the Gala Auction Dinner drew more than half the figure in bids for The Player Foundation and The Wildlands Conservation Trust, while the balance was supplemented by the silent auction of various Gary Player memorabilia, private donations, as well as business executive contributions and contributions made to “purchase” through donations to the Coca-Cola bicycles for the Wildlands project.
As always, the popular Friday night Gala Dinner and Auction was well attended and well supported.
The highlight was the R400 000 raised for a special 2012 Ryder Cup package. The original package for the Medinah Country Club showpiece was auctioned for R210 000, but former Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam then agreed to sponsor a second package, which raised a further R190 000.
Other pieces included a framed handprint of Nelson Mandela, one of only 100 signed by the former South African President, that was auctioned for R150 000.
An exclusive 2012 Masters package with Gary Player went for R210 000, while a trip accompanying Player to the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham, where he won in 1974, was auctioned for R110 000.
A further R110 000 was raised for a package to attend next year’s Wimbledon Championship, including business class flights, exclusive accommodation and centre court tickets.
A painting by the artist Wouter du Preez of Player on the Zimbali course was auctioned for R40 000. The painting is unique in that the face of the person who purchased it will be painted on the caddie standing alongside Player.
“It is always humbling to see the generous way in which so many people contribute to the charity efforts of this tournament, especially during these difficult economic times,” said Marc Player, Chief Executive of Black Knight International.
“Many of these sponsors and people are longstanding supporters of the Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola, and we are incredibly thankful for their continued support and willingness to make a difference.”
Pollock a winner
Out on the course, cricket great Shaun Pollock made a significant contribution to his already impressive trophy cabinet when he teamed up with businessman Wessel Witthuhn for victory on Sunday.
The amateur duo claimed a runaway victory in the alliance competition of the charity pro-am, finishing the 36 holes on 40-under-par. Their nearest challengers were the team of former Springbok Breyton Paulse and businessman Ron Boon on 34-under.
Pollock and Witthuhn set the tone for their triumph with a score of 15-under in the windy Saturday conditions, and then added a score of 25-under in the far calmer conditions on the Sunday.
They celebrated a double triumph as their professionals, Mark James and George Coetzee, won the betterball on a score of 19-under, with rounds of 64 and 61. Jaco van Zyl and Ian Woosnam took second place in the betterball on 15-under.
“I know my way around this course and it was great to play with the professionals, and also help Mr Player raise the money for charity. As professional sportsmen, we have a great platform to help give something back,” said Pollock, who played as virtually a third professional in their fourball off his scratch handicap.
“I made five birdies and an eagle on Sunday, so it was nice to contribute,” he said.
Witthuhn was also delighted with his first victory in the event. “Everybody asked if I was nervous playing with three such good golfers,” said the 14-handicapper. “But the nature of this tournament is that the people who play here are by their own nature also caring individuals who have time for an amateur like me.”
Professional golfer Coetzee couldn’t have asked for a more timeous victory as he prepares for a big summer on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa over the next two weeks.
“I’ve got two big tournaments coming, so this is good mental practice for me,” he said.
Coetzee was also full of praise for the work done by the event to raise money for disadvantaged children in South Africa.
“It’s been such a good tournament. What Gary Player does for us as golfers, and then also for charity and South Africa as a whole, is amazing. It’s an honour to be part of something like this.
“Obviously, I hope that one day I can achieve some of the success he did on the golf course, but more importantly that I can achieve as much as he has off the course as well.”
Player thanked all the participants for their support.”I’ve never seen scoring in this event like we had at Zimbali this year. The course was fantastic. And Coca-Cola and all our sponsors have been amazing in their support of our drive to make a difference.”
BETTER BALL MEDAL
(best two scores to count)
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