‘A bit of a minefield’ – Irish golfers among withdrawals at Joburg Open

DP World Tour have cancelled third event on the South Africa swing due to new variant

Paul Dunne plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Paul Dunne plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

 

Next week’s South African Open has been downgraded to a Sunshine Tour event and the Alfred Dunhill Championship due to take place on the DP World Tour the week after has been cancelled as South African sport shuts down due to the new Covid-19 variant detected in the country.

The newly-named DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) had just kicked off its season at the Joburg Open on Thursday when news of the variant began to emerge with the UK first to act in stopping flights from the country. Since then the EU has advised all member states to follow suit.

With four Irish players in the field at the Joburg Open, all have withdrawn and sought flights home while 17 others from Britain, Germany and Denmark have followed suit.

Niall Kearney, Jonny Caldwell, Cormac Sharvin and Paul Dunne were all among the withdrawals from the season opener with Dunne telling RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he had first heard the news when he finished his curtailed first round on Friday morning.

“I’m just not sure that everyone is aware,” Dunne said.

“I went to bed early last night and was up early this morning and I didn’t really look at my phone. I’d three holes to finish in my first round and when I came in, I turned my phone on and I had messages from everyone asking me if I was going to go to the airport or stay and play. That’s when I started to look into it.

“I think a few people are on the course without kind of a real idea of what’s going on, but some people are finding it hard, I’ve heard people can’t get a flight until Sunday evening. The only flights available are through Ethiopia and I think with the stuff in Ethiopia [ongoing conflict] nobody fancies travelling through there either. Bit of a minefield at the minute.”

A statement released by the DP World Tour read: “The Joburg Open, currently being played at Randpark Golf Club, will go ahead as planned and will finish on Sunday as scheduled as a full co-sanctioned tournament between the two tours,” a statement read.

“The South African Open Championship, set to be played at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City from 2-5 December, will also still be played as scheduled. However, it will go ahead as a solely Sunshine Tour event with a prize fund of US$500,000.

“The Alfred Dunhill Championship, which was scheduled to be played at Leopard Creek Country Club from 9-12 December, has after lengthy consultations with Alfred Dunhill, unfortunately been cancelled due to the adverse effect the travel restrictions will have on the field.”

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