In 1978 Gary Player, South Africa’s Sportsman of the Century, and one of the most revered golfers in the world, sat down with his friend Sol Kerzner, the developer of the Sun City Resort, and proposed launching a new golf tournament that would bring the world’s top players to South Africa. Player wanted to offer something that no other tournament in the world did – a $1 million first place check. Kerzner loved the concept and the Million Dollar Challenge officially launched in 1981.
Part of Sol Kerzner’s vision for the growth of Sun City was to build a championship golf course. A few years before the Million Dollar Challenge was launched Gary Player was commissioned to design and build what Kerzner termed “the finest course on the African continent.” Thus, the Gary Player Country Club (GPCC) was born and was completed in time to host the first Million Dollar Challenge event. The GPCC did achieve the recognition that Kerzner demanded and today still remains one of the top golf courses in the world.
“This is a very special tournament and place to me. When we launched the Million Dollar Challenge we knew we were taking a risk. Prize money of that amount was definitely not the norm and we were not sure how it would be received, especially when we made the tournament a ‘winner takes all’ format. We hoped to attract a select number of the world’s best and let them battle it out. Thankfully the tournament was a success in large part to friends like Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Seve Ballesteros, Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Bernard Langer. I am forever thankful for their support and friendship,” said Gary Player.
On 1 December, the Million Dollar Challenge, now known as the Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) celebrates its 31st year. Twelve of the world’s top players will descend upon the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa to see who will take home the coveted NGC trophy and the $1.2 million first prize check.
This year’s field features the current World Number One Luke Donald, two former World Number One’s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and British Open winner Darren Clarke. The combined 12-man field has captured 18 titles in 2011 alone.
“Africa’s Major” has undergone a few changes over the years, mainly awarding prize money to all of the players (until 1988 the tournament was a “winner take all” event) and in 2010 the addition of the Nedbank Senior Challenge. The Senior’s Challenge started as a commemorative event to help celebrate NGC’s 30th anniversary and has now morphed into a full-blown tournament. The eight-man field includes six Major Champions – Bernhard Langer, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Ian Woosnam and Nick Price – along with three time NCC winner David Frost and defending champion Jeff Sluman.
Whoever hoists the NGC and the Senior Challenge trophy will surely have bested a field of champion golfers on a truly championship golf course.
For more information about the Nedbank Golf Challenge please click here