Follett-Smith hails FBCH

FBCH chief executive officer Trynos Kufazvineyi, flanked by Zimbabwe Open tournament director Michael Mahachi (left) and Zimbabwe Open Committee chairperson Livingstone Gwata (right), lifts the FBC Zimbabwe Open trophy at the launch in Harare a fortnight ago.

ZIMBABWE professional golfer Ben Follett-Smith has expressed gratitude to financial institution FBC Holdings Limited for increasing their sponsorship package for this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe Open which tees off next week.

FBCH are title sponsors in the country’s premier golf event for the third-year running and increased their sponsorship package from US$150 000 last year to US$200 000.

The 30-year-old golfer is one of the top local golfers expected to challenge for top honours at the event along with the Vincent brothers Scott and Kieran, Robson Chinhoi and Stuart Krog, among others.

Interestingly, Follett-Smith sees potential to grow the Zimbabwe Open into a European Tour event.

“I am just super grateful to FBC Holding for continuing to increase the prize fund. Zimbabwe has not been in its best place (economically), but the competition keeps getting better and better and I am glad they have been able to put US$200 000,” Follett-Smith told this publication in an exclusive interview.

“It would obviously be nice if we could keep growing this and put it into a European Tour standard, maybe like a US$1 million, US$1, 5 million or US$2 million prize fund.

“I am sure if we collect a few sponsors in that area and some business people in Zimbabwe, we can get to those amounts and then hopefully put it on the European Tour and have big tournaments.

“I am sure Royal Harare Golf Club is able to host these kinds of tournaments and we must take advantage of this and really get something going.

“Hopefully we can grow and eventually have it on the European Tour, which will be even better. Kenya has European tour events and let’s aspire to try and get there,” he said.

So far only South Africa and Kenya are the two African countries to host DP World Tour, formerly European Tour, co-sanctioned events. Last year, the Zimbabwe Open Committee chairperson Livingstone Gwata expressed the intention in getting the event on the DP World Tour.

"We were not able to go on board with the DP World Tour in 2022 and 2023. The reason being the European Tour has introduced some very stringent requirements,” he said.

“They require a guarantee of some six months in advance in the prior year before they can put us on the calendar.

"Our relationship with the Sunshine Tour has been on a gentlemen's agreement type of arrangement and they have not been asking for a guarantee from us, but of course the European Tour are a lot far removed.

“They have had some disappointments elsewhere on the continent and it is understandable that they require some sort of first class guarantee or cash upfront six months in the previous year before they put us on the calendar,” Gwata said then.

It appears the Zim Open will have to wait a little longer to join the DP World Tour.

However, Follett-Smith, who boasts of  five professional wins including two on the Sunshine Tour, is looking forward to making a successful return to the Zimbabwe Open after missing out on a couple of events in the past.

“I have competed four times at the Zimbabwe Open and I have missed a couple of events because I have been travelling internationally, playing internationally and so I haven’t been there all the time. But the Zimbabwe Open will always be a special event for me,” he said.

“I think I will keep trying to comeback forever and obviously my targets firstly are just to enjoy it, enjoy being home and obviously put myself into contention to win obviously winning down the stretch will be nice too.

“So those are obviously big goals and we are just looking forward to giving it a good try,” Follett-Smith said.

A total of 144 golfers are set to take part in the FBC Zimbabwe Open. The event has been dominated by South African golfers, who have won every event since its reintroduction in 2010 onto the local scene, after a nine-year absence.

Related Topics