It was eagerly awaited and now it’s here. Espen Kofstad, winner of the 2012 Challenge Tour Rankings, became the latest player to be honoured by The European Tour when he was selected to launch The 2013 Race to Dubai, hitting the opening tee-shot of the new season at the curtain-raising Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
Following the titanic efforts of staff, members and the local services to prepare the course after unseasonably wet conditions forced a two-day postponement to the first round, the Norwegian’s drive at Royal Durban Golf Club heralded the fifth edition of the season-long Race to Dubai, which will consist of a minimum of 45 tournaments around the world, with the winner following in the illustrious footsteps of previous champions; Lee Westwood (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Luke Donald (2011) and Rory McIlroy (2012).
The 12 month golfing odyssey will see the schedule travel though Asia, America, Australasia and its home continent of Europe, before ending back in Dubai with the 2013 DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 14-17.
“It is just really cool to be given the honour of hitting the first tee shot and starting this year’s Race to Dubai – especially looking at the names who have done it before me,” said Kofstad, who became the first-ever Norwegian Challenge Tour Number One following his second victory of the year in the southern Italian region of Puglia at October’s season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
“I’m ready to go now and to try to get into the top 60 by the end of the year and get a place in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“It is so impressive there at Jumeirah Golf Estates. We played there last winter in practice and it is not as easy as the guys like Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald make it look, so what they did two weeks ago just shows the level of golf on The European Tour - I hope I can get to that point.”
Kofstad’s significant role in the opening of the 2013 season has indeed been filled by some notable names since the launch of the first edition of The Race to Dubai in 2009, seemingly often proving a good omen for the incumbent.
In 2009, Sergio Garcia struck the first-ever shot in the maiden Race to Dubai at the WGC-HSBC Champions before going on to win the first tournament of the new season.
In 2010, it was one of the longest serving players in the history of The European Tour, England’s Barry Lane, that was given the honour, while in 2011 Lee Slattery hit the opening drive and duly went on to claim his first European Tour title in 183 appearances at the Bankia Madrid Masters later that year.
Last year, South African Retief Goosen launched The 2012 Race to Dubai and got off to a flying start, firing an eight under par 65 in the first round of the Africa Open before eventually finishing third.