Challenge Tour Number One Espen Kofstad has been handed the honour of kicking off The 2013 Race to Dubai at 0630 on Thursday morning when the Norwegian will strike the opening tee shot of the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Hand at Royal Durban Golf Club.
The marquee group of the first two rounds, meanwhile, is undoubtedly that of South African stars Branden Grace and George Coetzee, who will play alongside Spanish European Tour Champion Pablo Larrazabal from the tenth tee at 0740 on Thursday.
Just 11 days after Rory McIlroy capped a remarkable season by adding the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, to The Race to Dubai crown he had already secured following the Barclays Singapore Open, the fifth edition of the year-long money race begins in South Africa in the first of six events to be held in the country in The 2013 European Tour International Schedule.
Kofstad stormed to the top spot in the 2012 Challenge Tour Rankings largely thanks to a stunning victory at the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in October – his second win in the Italian region of Puglia that season – and he will commence his rookie European Tour season alongside the Sunshine Tour’s Thabo Maseko and Charl Coetzee.
Grace will be looking to maintain his extraordinary form from 2012, when he won four European Tour events and a total of five titles worldwide after emerging from the Qualifying School at the end of 2011, while his good friend and fellow Pretorian Coetzee is still looking for his maiden title on the top tier of European golf despite 18 top ten finishes.
Sharing his birthday with the man whose name adorns the tournament, Nelson Mandela, could prove inspiration for the 26 year old to make that breakthrough, while their star-studded three-ball will be completed by Larrazabal, who won his second European Tour title at the 2011 BMW International Open.
England’s John Parry, fresh from winning the Qualifying School Final Stage in Spain last week, will be looking to reignite his European Tour career after regaining his card in some style in Girona and he will play the first two rounds alongside the man who finished second at PGA Catalunya Resort, Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg, from 0710 on Thursday morning.