Four winners in the country’s top amateur golf tournament – Tsogo Sun’s Duke of Edinburgh Championship – held on 19 May at the Country Club Johannesburg courses made it through the tight competition of the day to earn their prize of a trip to England to play in the World Finals.The winners were Ingrid Harris and Wendy Reeve on the Woodmead course and Mark du Bernard and Quintin Pitt on the Rocklands course. “We’re particularly delighted because this is only the second time in the championship’s history in South Africa a women’s pair has won,” comments Kathy Scheepmaker, Tsogo Sun, Project Manager for the tournament.“It was a perfect day for golf, the course was immaculate and the play was nail-biting right through to the end,” adds Scheepmaker. A total of 196 golfers played in the championship over the two courses.Winner Ingrid Harris was overwhelmed by the whole experience. “I was delighted to receive an invitation to participate. All the arrangements and attention to detail, from the cocktail party the night before the game, which was lovely and very informative, through to the golf day, were great and made us feel extremely special.“Competing with golfers from all over the country created a fantastic competitive atmosphere – and of course the magnitude of the top prize made it all the more exciting.” Harris said that as the game progressed and she and her partner realised they stood a chance of winning, the tension grew and so did their concentration. “After nine holes we were in third place and were scared to raise our hopes too high as golf can be very unpredictable – anything can happen! We were delighted to end up the winners on the day, with the opportunity to go and play golf in the UK on some world-renowned courses.”The four winners qualified to play in the Duke of Edinburgh Championship World Finals in England during October 2014. The prize includes a trip to London for the four winners, hotel accommodation for five nights, entry into the Individual World Final and into the World Pairs Trophy for the Duke of Edinburgh Championship, rounds of golf at both Mill Ride Golf & Country Club and The Buckinghamshire Golf Club, an invitation to play at the Royal Household Golf Club at Windsor Great Park and attendance at the prize-giving gala dinner at Windsor Castle attended by a member of the Royal Family.Sampie Pienaar, who was one of the winners in 2005 and has played in the championship six times altogether, says that Tsogo Sun goes out of its way to make the Duke of Edinburgh Championship a special event for the players. The big prize makes it even more special and definitely adds to the nerves on the day. “Knowing what the prize is makes me come back every year.”Winner Quintin Pitt said that representing South Africa in the finals is a huge honour for him. “The whole event is extremely special for amateur golfers. Tsogo Sun does an amazing job of running it and contributing to charity through it, and now we have the opportunity to represent our country at the top of the international amateur golfing stage. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Winner Mark du Bernard is also awed by the event and the prize. “The DOE Championship is one of the most prestigious amateur golfing competitions in the world while also making a difference to less privileged people – it was an absolute honour to be a part of it. I cannot believe that I, born in Zimbabwe and living on the East Rand, will now have the opportunity to meet royalty and play on some top courses in the UK.”The Duke of Edinburgh Championship is played in 10 countries around the world, with the South African leg qualifying as one of the most successful in terms of the number of players participating. The competition has given amateur golfers the opportunity to contribute to charitable causes through Tsogo Sun’s CSI programme which has raised over R8 million since the inception of the competition in 2000.Patron of the South African leg of the Duke of Edinburgh Championship is Edith Venter, who says that the worthwhile causes supported by the championship are all about youth and education, which adds to the specialness of the event. Added to that is the prize that includes playing on the queen’s course, a gala dinner with the Duke of Edinburgh and rubbing shoulders with royalty. “That’s priceless,” she says.