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The South African Tournament - The Background

From its very inception at Kimberley in 1892 the annual get-together of the country’s best golfers was called the South African Tournament.   The main event on that historic occasion was the inauguration of the SA Amateur Championship.   In later years other major championships were also included on the programme, the SA Open Championship in 1903 and the Professionals’ Match Play Championship in 1923.   But essentially the annual get-together of the country’s best golfers was a tournament, a celebration of golf, rather than a championship meeting.  Certainly the championships were of major importance but in addition various team and handicap competitions were included to make up a full programme for the enjoyment of all the golfers who had made the trip. This made good sense.  Travel around the country was a tedious and time consuming business at the turn of the 20th Century and through to the 1920’s and 30’s and golfers coming from afar to attend the Tournament expected, and got, more than just the promise of playing in one or two rounds of the Amateur.

The programme at Kimberley that first year, in addition to the national championship, included an Inter-Club Competition and a Handicap Competition ‘decided by strokes’. It extended over six days from 26th September to 1st October.  This was the small beginning.  As the years passed the programme became more and more elaborate with more and more competitions being added and, as a result, more and more extended.  The Inter-Centre and the Inter-Club competitions were firm fixtures and various handicap events filled in the gaps between the major championships.  In 1923 at Royal Cape no less than six handicap events were played, the Wynberg Handicap, the Ottery Handicap, the Royal Cape Handicap, the Tafelberg Handicap, the Mowbray Handicap and the Peninsula Handicap.  Amateurs had to get time off for over two weeks, eleven days for the meeting itself, two or more for travelling to and fro and perhaps another one or two for practice.  To make things easier the Tournament was arranged to be played over the Easter weekend and came to be known as the SA Easter Tournament or Easter Meeting.   It is worth recording a typical programme; that for the 1927 SA Golf Tournament at Maccauvlei is an example.  It reads like a marathon!