Hwange finally pays 2015 winning golfers

HARARE - Professional golfers who claimed honours at the 2015 Hwange Open have finally been paid.

This comes after Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) which reported a $115 million loss in 2015 alone, had put players’ payments on hold citing financial constraints. The company owes its creditors $352 million.

The golfers had battled it out in the sweltering heat of Matabeleland North on the promise of a $15 000 prize fund.

And after a some two years, the ailing coal giant appears to have honoured the remainder of what is owed to players.

Ironically, a number of the Hwange Open 2015 winners have turned up for the ongoing 2017 Hwange Open in the hope of earning the top prize.

Speaking to the Daily News, Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) managing director Thomas Makore said they had also moved to ensure that 2017 winners will not have to wait another two years before receiving their prizes.

“I can confirm that 2015 prizes were paid in full and that this year’s prize money is available,” Makore said.

Reached for comment, one player who was among the 2015 winners said, although the said money was yet to reflect in his account, he was grateful that a concerted effort had been made to deliver his reward.

“They had promised to pay us before the commencement of this year’s tournament, so if they have honoured that promise then we are grateful.

“Although as of today the money has not yet reflected,” said a golfer who requested anonymity fearing reprisals.

Zimbabwe Professional Golf Association (ZPGA) president Gary Thompson was more diplomatic.

“Yes, we have got confirmation of full payment including outstanding (balances) and that really means a lot to us and we are very thankful to the chairman for pushing. We know the intense difficulties, enough has been said about that,” he said.

“What is important is that against the heat, we have to make headway and I am delighted that our members are excited and as ZPGA we will try keep the cost down.”

Turning to the Hwange Open that got underway yesterday with the pro-am tournament before the main event tees off this morning in the golfers’ respective divisions, Thompson predicted a tough contest.

The former television personality was the one who clinched the title in 2015 after firing a total four-under-par 212 following rounds of 70, 72 and 70.

Thompson who was in his maiden season finished ahead of Stephen Ferreira who was two strokes behind on a two-way tie with amateur Robson Chinhoi.

And he is hoping to reciprocate that form in a field of more than 40 professional golfers and no less than 100 amateur golfers in a tournament being played under the stroke play format.

“It’s a good field. I got a feeling it’s going to be a record…I think it’s going to go low. It’s going to be a great test to the guys and it’s such a heritage event with greats like (Mark William) McNulty, (Nick) Price (and Denis) Watson on the board. I am looking forward to defending. I can’t wait to hit it up with the guys.

“For me it’s as important as I am making some decisions regarding the senior tour next year based on how I perform.”

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