Thriston Lawrence has confirmed he will defend his Investec South African Open title as he returns to the Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate from 30 November to 3 December.
The 2023 edition of this prestigious event aims to give all South Africans an unforgettable experience at the country’s most historic tournament.
Lawrence will be joined by a quality Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned field already including former Investec South African Open champions Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Daniel van Tonder and Brandon Stone as well as Dean Burmester, Erik van Rooyen and Charl Schwartzel.
The spectacular Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate course, designed by 13-time Investec South African Open champion Gary Player, will host this championship for the second time. The estate just outside Johannesburg aims to match its unparalleled living experience with an equally unparalleled Investec South African Open experience for golf fans and their families.
The celebration of the second oldest national Open in golf will also include an ‘Out of the Ordinary’ experience for the highest placed professional (who is not already exempt for the championship) in the Papwa Sewgolum Class. The Sunshine Tour’s transformation programme of which Investec is a patron, will reward the player with a spot in the 156-man field as they chase the $1.5 million in prize money.
In addition, there will be a greater focus on family entertainment with an expanded Fan Village consisting of food trucks, ice cream stalls, bars, music and interactive games. The enhanced fan experience will offer premier viewing through exclusive greenside hospitality as well as a new driving range grandstand, and several other interactive competitions.
“Investec is an organisation firmly rooted in South Africa and, as title sponsor of both South African Opens on the Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour, we believe we can continue to contribute to a game so many are passionate about,” said Peta Dixon, Investec Head of Sponsorships.
Lawrence is back to defend a title that saw him realise a childhood dream when he completed a thrilling final round in 2022 to win by one stroke.
“This is the one you want to win – your national Open. It was so special to have Gary Player watching as well. He’s won 13 of these, and now I’ve got one as well. I grew up watching it on TV and always wanted to win it, especially with all the names on that trophy and the history behind it. It’s what you dream of,” he said.
His words are echoed by his recent fellow Investec South African Open former champions who return this year.
“It’s always been a dream and I wasn’t sure when, or if, I would achieve it,” Bezuidenhout said of his triumph in December 2020.
“This is the second oldest Open in golf, and winning it is big,” said Van Tonder of his victory in 2021.
For Burmester and Schwartzel, it remains a dream title they are still chasing.
“For us as South Africans it’s our fifth Major and we all want to win it so badly. I’ve won the South African PGA Championship, so to get my name on the Investec South African Open trophy as well and have done the double would be very special,” said Burmester.
“I’ve come close a few times and that victory has so far evaded me. It’s one that I would really like to be able to win. It would be an amazing tournament to be able to win as the second oldest national Open in golf. As a South African it would be a privilege to have that under your belt. All golfers want to win their national Open and it would mean a lot to me,” added Schwartzel.
The Sunshine Tour Beat the Pro competition will also take centre stage as golf fans are given the chance to take on the professionals in a ‘closest to the pin’ competition and win a place in the final in Mauritius this December. All the Beat the Pro winners will compete against each other for the grand prize of an all-expenses paid trip to the Major of their choice in 2024.
Spectators stand a daily chance of winning limited edition zebra Converse leather sneakers by walking the Investec Blair Mile from the 30 November to 3 December. Shaded spectator seating will be provided at the signature third hole, with an Investec Private Banking hole-in-one prize for the professionals to the value of R1 million on the Saturday and Sunday.
There will also be five mini Investec zebras hidden throughout the course each to the value of R5 000, and there will be a sticker collection card that offers them a free beverage or an ice cream for the kids if they collect all nine on-course stickers.
Following the third round on Saturday afternoon, a selection of South Africa’s biggest hitters will unleash their longest drives back down the 18th fairway to the music of a live DJ and with spectators encouraged to also try their luck at winning the longest drive of the day.
Fans keeping an eye on their social media and who purchase tickets to the golf will also stand the chance to win a VIP experience including a seat on the couch right next to the 18th green to watch the action as well as enjoy VIP hospitality. A new grandstand on the driving range will also give fans a unique view of the professionals warming up.