THE TWIN TOWERS . . . over a century of history

Robson Sharuko-Editor

WHEN the first golf ball flies off the tee at Royal Harare today, it will be a momentous occasion as the 40th edition of the Zimbabwe Open will get underway.

It is the premier golf tournament in the country and its flagship sponsors, FBC Bank, have raised the stakes from R2.2m to R2.5m this year in a huge vote of confidence for the tourney.

It’s part of the Sunshine Tour and has come a long way from the first edition, as the Zimbabwe Open, when an amateur, Anderson Rusike, wrote the tourney’s greatest fairy-tale success story with a stunning victory at Royal Harare in 1984.

It’s not the only big show in town.

The iconic Castle Tankard, Africa’s oldest sponsored horse race, will gallop into action at Borrowdale Park on Saturday.

The race has a US$50 000 purse.

The winning horse will take home US$25 000.

When the then Rhodesian Breweries offered to sponsor the race in February 1960, with a purse of £2,100 on Easter Monday, it marked the first time that a horse race had been sponsored on the continent.

It had a field of seven runners and the highly-rated South African race horse, Riza, was triumphant after beating My King by 4 ¾ lengths.

The Castle Tankard remains the most coveted prize to win on the local horse racing front.

It is now more than just horse racing but a party and the traditional after-party show, which this year will be headline by the legendary Alick Macheso, attracts as huge an audience as the horse racing fanatics.

Twelve horses will battle for the Castle Tankard on Saturday.

On the same day, at Royal Harare, the leading golfers will have pushed themselves into contention to win the FBC Zimbabwe Open.

Rusike’s success as an amateur in 1984 set the tone for local golfers to give the home fans something to cheer their spirits with a home victory.

They had to wait for eight years for that to happen when Mark McNulty won the Zimbabwe Open in 1992.

Tony Johnstone took the crown the following year to complete back-to-back victories for local golfers for the first time in the tournament.

Then, in 1995, Nick Price came home and won three of the four tournaments between 1995 and 1998.

Only McNulty, in 1996, prevented him from a clean sweep of four wins on the trot.

McNulty won his third Zimbabwe Open title in 2000 and, since then, no Zimbabwean golfer has won the tournament, which has been turned into a playground of the South African golfers.

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