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January 9, 2013

Per Ericsson

Branden Grace

Guy Kinnings

Michael Mabuyakhulu

Tokozile Xasa


ANNA HAFSTRテ窶溺 KOVテδゝS:テつ We will comment to the official press conference for the 2013 Volvo Golf Champions.テつ As you recognise already, my name is Anna Hafstrテδカm Kovテδ。ts, I am communications director at Volvo Event Management.テつ
So we are very happy to have you here and thanks for supporting the tournament.
I would like to introduce you to the top table:テつ Mr.Guy Kinnings here, Global Managing Director, IMG Golf is here; and Deputy Minister of Tourism, South African government, Tokozile Xasa; Mr.Per Ericsson, President, Volvo Event Management; and MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, KwaZulu Natal Province, Mr. Michael Mabuyakhulu; and our defending champion, Branden Grace and Paul Symes from The European Tour.
PAUL SYMES:テつ Per, perhaps you would like to get proceedings underway with a few words from Volvo.
PER ERICSSON:テつ Good afternoon.テつ I'm very hot.テつ (Laughter) I'm very happy not to wear a tie as my colleague on the right.テつ Welcome distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.テつ On behalf of Volvo, I would like to welcome you to this tournament and this press conference.
Volvo has now firmly positioned itself as the Tournament of Champions of The European Tour, this is the third edition.テつ This is Volvo's 128th professional golf tournament.テつ We have since 1988what we call in Sweden a civil wedding this year.テつ Not sure if that is the same thing in South Africa, but we do have a civil wedding in golf this year.
Let's talk about the field.テつ I'm delighted to have a strong field this week.テつ We have actually seven major champions, including the current British Open Champion, Ernie Els, and let's talk about some figures and stats.テつ We have 33 players; 15 of them are Top 60 in the world; and between them, they have won 209 European Tour events, and 14 major titles and all and all, they have won over 300 tournaments around the world.
So it's really, really a great field we have this week.テつ I actually think Colin Montgomerie is the highest with 31 wins.
There are six South Africans participating in this tournament, and otherwise there are 16 countries.テつ It's a worldwide, world‑class field.テつ We lost two players the last couple of weeks, Miguel Jimテδゥnez, a keen skier, who broke his leg; and my countryman, Peter Hanson who I spoke to actually this morning has the flu, so he can't play, either.テつ Which having a flu is bad enough.テつ I pretty much think it's quite tough without having a flu in this weather and having the flu is not the best condition to play, so he's not playing.
Let's talk about the format.テつ It's a unique format.テつ It's just open for champions, or for those who have won more than ten times on The European Tour.テつ They will play all four days and you will get to see all the stars for four days.
And another thing that is special about the format for this tournament is the Friday tournament, what we call the Amateur Pro competition.テつ And right now, we have our client for corporate golf was held at Zimbali just up the road, where we had 67 players competing out of 76,000 players from the beginning worldwide.テつ We have 67 players participating out there for a title today and tomorrow, and the top 17 of them will be able to play together with the pros on Friday live on TV.テつ It's a lifetime experience for an amateur player.
There is something new about it this year because as you know we have a couple of hole‑in‑one prizes, which is extraordinary this year.テつ The R&A changed the ruling last year, so actually the manager can win the hole‑in‑one prize as well, which I hope can happen, because we have three great hole‑in‑one prizes at stake:テつ We have the ordinary one, a Volvo V40, a very nice car on the 12th hole.テつ And then we have an Excavator on 15, the last par 3 hole, which is unusual.テつ Then on the 18th we have the extraordinary, brand new SH Truck, which actually is not even launched yet.テつ It's not out yet.テつ You can't buy it yet.テつ Well, you can buy it but you can't have it yet.テつ That's an astonishing, it's worth approximately 120,000 Euros and it's definitely a reachable par 4, and so that would be the place to watch.
In addition to the prizes, we have a prize fund of 2 million Euros and the winner will go home with 350,000 Euros.テつ We have the past champion, and Branden, as you know, we wish you luck this week because we have a special relationship with Branden, and I believe he won this tournament last year, he won the Volvo China Open last year, so wish you luck this week.
And to finish off, there's a lot of people to thank for a tournament like this.テつ There's a lot of people working for a couple of weeks, but I would like to thank all of them; but I'll stop with just thanking the people next to me at the top table for your support and all of your help.
We feel extremely well here in Durban, so thank you, and that's about what I have to say, because I'm sweating too much now.
GUY KINNINGS:テつ I think we are all truly delighted to be here in Durban to host our third Volvo Golf Champions at this wonderful new venue, together with our long‑term partners, Volvo, whose commitment to golf globally continues to be nothing short of outstanding.
It's not always easy to stage a tournament that changes venue each year.テつ So we are particularly thankful to the KwaZulu‑Natal Provincial government and the Central Government Department of Sport and Recreation and the department of tourism; and particularly to Minister Tokozile Xasa for her support and commitment to hosting this event.テつ Quite frankly, the Minister has been a huge help for some time in making this happen and we are very appreciative of that.
Our thanks, also, to Michael Mabuyakhulu, MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, whose personal vision played such a large part in bringing the Volvo to the KwaZulu‑Natal region.テつ We are sure the tournament will provide the perfect platform to showcase all of the wonderful facilities that the area has to offer to a global audience and to highlight the unrivalled tourism offering to such a huge TV audience.
The event will also shine a pretty sharp spotlight on South African golf and its stars who have played a key role in the development of The European Tour, and they have enjoyed such an astonishingly successful time in terms of global victory in recent years.
We are honoured to be here at the outstanding Durban Country Club which is rated very highly by all of the players and is in the Top‑100 golf courses in the world in America's Golf Magazine.テつ The club's members and staff have shown endless enthusiasm in helping us prepare for the week; and the success of the tournament will be in no small part thanks to them for their hard work and sometimes, I'm sure, trying circumstances given the weather of late.
In the last half century, IMG has staged about 750 golf tournaments worldwide, and we have done about 250 European Tour events, but the Volvo has quickly become a very important part of that global portfolio and we are very proud to collaborate on the tournament with Volvo.テつ As Per said, they have got over 25 years experience of running golf events, and that makes them one of golf's, and The European Tour's, most prolific supporters.テつ We are proud to work with Per and Anna and all of their excellent team.テつ In such tough economic sometimes, golf as a sport is extremely lucky to have long‑term partners like Volvo.
We are delighted to welcome so many of The European Tour's best players here this week to compete in the champion of champions title.テつ South African golf is enjoying a Golden Era and nothing demonstrates that more than the six South Africans competing here this week, all winners on The European Tour last year.テつ And our thanks must also go to the Sunshine Tour for their help and support and clearly a lot of the success is down to their hard work.
We are very grateful for the support of so many of the world's best players who are here including of course our defending champion, whose victory in the 2012 Volvo proved to be a springboard to his astonishing year.テつ We look forward to seeing who will rise to the top of this field of great champions come Sunday afternoon.テつ Thank you very much.
TOKOZILE XASA:テつ Thank you very much and compliments of the new year to everyone who is here.テつ It's a great time of the year where everything‑‑ life goes down but this tournament for us, tourism in South Africa is a great boost.
When we sat down with the timetable to thank them for considering South Africa as the best destination to host one of the greatest tournaments in the history of golf for the country, and also my colleagues here, thank you for your steady leadership.
We are here today‑‑ and it is here in KwaZulu Natal the next few days we will also be hosting the one‑year celebration of the oldest liberation movement in the world, the African National Congress.テつ So the whole world is seeing Durban and the leadership of my dear colleague, Michael Mabuyakhulu, we are so grateful to have this championship here in South Africa in 2012.
And the championship of this magnitude requires unquestionable integrity on part of all the organisers which we really are thankful to for pulling together at this time, and at the same time, it calls upon us as a government to reaffirm our commitment to hosting international events as a country.
We are here saying to the world, here is another opportunity that has presented itself for South Africa where we are showcasing our ability to host international events in sport has proven to be one huge market in the country that is bringing in visitors.
And golf itself has also proven to be one tourist attraction in our country, and recognise its importance and the importance of golfing visitors as they come into the country, we know they are the people of the finest quality and therefore, we represent the finest we have as a country, and for us this is a great opportunity.
And South Africa, therefore, has an opportunity to showcase itself as a sporting destination of the world and we are building on 2009 and 2010 where South Africa was awarded in the world travel awards as one of the world's leading sports tourism destinations; and we are, therefore, taking steps to formal lies our active ties around sports tourism as a country.テつ Golf, therefore, presents us that opportunity, and our global reputation as a country in hosting and having been established during the 2010 FIFA World Cup presents us with the considerable qualities that are required for any host of an international sporting event.
We are here today, therefore, as South Africa is proud to be amongst the global leaders and pledge that we continue to find ways to entrench our golden opportunity of presenting ourselves as a global destination.テつ We are here to say the tournament is ready to take off.テつテつ We are saying to all sports lovers across all golf and especially the golf sports lovers, that our facilities are quite outstanding; and to have leaders like Branden Grace and other South African champions, golfing champions, who have made it out of the more than 500 golf courses that we have in the country; is a testimony to say South Africa can do it.
So today we are very excited to be part of this fine quality of people that will be coming to South Africa and every one of you is the ambassador of South Africa; you will not only be exposed to golfing greats but you will be exposed to other attractions we have in the country, and by its nature the championship has provided such a boost for us and we hope that we will embrace this kind of event and looking for more of these events in South Africa; and not just this year.
MICHAEL MABUYAKHULU:テつ Thank you very much, Program Director.テつ On behalf of the provincial government of KwaZulu Natal, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the event and the organisers of the Volvo Golf Champions for choosing Durban as this year's standard of this particular tournament.テつ This event is very important; it's an event where you have a champion that has succeeded and have got such vast experience in the game of golf, indicates the event that we can have and the people in this province have in supporting this tournament.
I hope the golfers and the visitor also have a brilliant time in KwaZulu Natal and leave the country with fond memories of our province.テつ When we launched this event in October last year, we made the pledge that we will ensure that this becomes one of the most prestigious in the history of the world of golf tournaments.
We are confident that his role will indeed pose benefits for the portion of KwaZulu Natal and attract‑‑ moreover, we believe that the involvement of the Volvo golf tournament will inspire young kids, and especially those in disadvantaged communities to take up golf as a sport.
We would like to thank in particular Volvo, IMG and The European Tour, and finally we acknowledge the presence of the defending champion of this tournament, Branden Grace, what a pleasure, and we wish you well in your endeavors.
PAUL SYMES:テつ This is obviously your first chance to defend a European title.テつ You must be looking forward to it for a long time.
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ Yeah, it's great.テつ Like last year, this is the first event, and I've never defended a title before.テつ I've looked for to it for quite some time now, and it's great.
Like everybody has mentioned it's a great event to play in and you have some of the world's best here.テつ It's going to be a tough task but everybody is up for the challenge so should be a good one.
PAUL SYMES:テつ 2012 was such a great year; looking forward to another one this year?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ I think so.テつ Last year was remarkable, so if I get even close to, that I'll be happy with it.テつ I just want to keep going in the right direction, keep going in the right path and keep getting better and keep swinging the way I am, and you never know what can happen.テつ It shows you how quick things change, especially in the game of golf.

Q.テつ You played this morning, what do you think of the course?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ It's always nice, firstly, to come back to the KwaZulu Natal area.テつ I think a lot of the guys, coming back to the heat and things like that appreciate it after the cold they have had the last couple of months.
But, you know, the course is in great shape.テつ I think the green keeping staff has done a tremendous job.テつ I know I was here a couple of weeks ago playing in the Nelson Mandela and the rain and things and what's happened; and what they have done so far this week has been nothing short of remarkable.テつ The golf course is in great neck and it can only be a great event.テつ I think not just myself, but anybody else that's looking forward to getting out there and getting underway.

Q.テつ How important was winning here in what you went on to achieve?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ Yeah, very.テつ Obviously the first event made it possible to get into the Volvo last year.テつ I think just the way it happened last year, obviously Volvo being a great sponsor for a long time and being a great event, just the way it finished just for myself, I think that was one of the biggest steppingstones of my career so far; and just the way it finished and to play off made it just that extra bit more special.
I think if it wasn't for the Volvo event last year, I don't think I would have even gotten close to winning a few more times after that so it's been a great steppingstone for myself and it's nice to get the possibilities.
So thank you to Volvo for what they do for the sport of golf and hopefully keep doing things going forward.

Q.テつ With the pressure, no one expected you to win last year, you were sort of breaking new ground; how do you prepare for yourself for defending trophies and people looking at you‑‑ what other surprises are you going to bring up?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ I don't really know what the future holds but if it's anything like last year, I'll take it.テつ It's good.テつ That's the thing about this game, you never know what's around the corner.テつ Obviously I followed up defending and I know people is really putting it out there saying that you need to achieve some more stuff and keep it flag high and things like that.
It just comes with it, after the first two wins I felt really come if I out there and things just came together.テつ Like I said, this is the first for me defending and it's a new learning curve.テつ So I think if I can learn some more stuff in the next couple of weeks and taking it forward, you never know what can happen.

Q.テつ I'm sure growing up, Ernie was one of your idols; did you ever dream of meeting them growing up?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ Not really.テつ I think when you grow up, you always think of winning in events.テつ You never are thinking of, yeah, I want to beat them in a playoff.
But just the way it happened made it extra special.テつ Like you said, they have been a part of golf growing up.テつ Just to do that and in such a prestigious event like this one was just something truly that I never even thought can happen.
So it's amazing, I still can't believe it, and still a lot of people ask me about this; but I know now that I can do it, and I think that's been the main key why I was so good last year was the two more wins after that, that extra bit of confidence knowing that I can do it and anything is possible.

Q.テつ You're now on a stage where everybody looks at you and looks at South Africa producing all of these top‑class players.テつ Your plans, are you going to play on The European Tour next year, or do you plan to divide your time between the U.S. and Europe and a bit of South Africa?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ Yeah, I'm thinking of doing all three to be honest.テつ Because obviously I don't want to just really jump into the U.S. part of things.テつ I think last year, I really just found my feet back in Europe again.テつ I don't just want to put myself out there in the States again and start all over what I've just started last year.
But also you need to step out of your comfort zone and head over to the States and try to get that little bit more of experience and things like that and take it from there.テつ I'm definitely looking forward to the majors and the WGCs.テつ I think the thing for me this year is really trying to compete in them this year; where last year was just getting there and getting the experience and trying to make the cut and things like that, and get in my mind where I'm really saying that I can win a major and I can win the British Open.テつ So it's not that ‑‑ you get that recognition from other players, but now you can believe it, and that's definitely the goal.
I'll be in the States for maybe the first part of the season and then maybe coming back to Europe to compete in the big events and things like that.テつ It's always important for all of the South Africans to come back and support the Sunshine Tour.
I made a big deal about it last year, I came back and played eight events, so hopefully the schedule allows me to head back and compete for the Order of Merit.テつ It's something that's a great honor to win the Order of Merit in South Africa in your own national big event and something we all want to do and try to do it.

Q.テつ Obviously there's a great tournament going on over here but there's another tournament which is happening a little down the road.テつ How important is those 67 players that you invited and how important is that tournament?
PER ERICSSON:テつ That's a very good question because I've tried to tell people, that's the most important tournament we run, because the reason whywe support golf is not ‑‑ and forgive me, it's not to give the pros a lot of money.テつ It is because golf is a way for us to communicate with our customers.テつ And being able to play golf with a customer for four hours, that he actually enjoysthe best of life, is a very good way for connecting with our customers.
So this tournament that is played down the road is extremely important for us.テつ You can say that we are investing in the professional tournaments to be trustworthy to have people coming to play with us.テつ But we are particularly proud to connect the amateur with professional golf and I think that's really a good thing because we can actually involve the customer in cat man due and say that you can end up playing with Branden Grace, which is true, and that's a good thing.

Q.テつ Are there any chances of going back now to Bahrain that things seem to be a little better?
PER ERICSSON:テつ I got this question ‑‑ I met with the Bahrain people a couple of weeks after our first tournament.テつ It's actually not up to Volvo.テつ It's actually what the rest of the world thinks of Bahrain and we don't judge that.テつ As long as the overall feeling of Bahrain is a good one, we will surely come back because we love to play there.テつ We don't have an announcement to go back in the near future but I would like to come back because I really enjoyed myself in Bahrain.

Q.テつ This year The Open is at Muirfield where Ernie won the last time it was held there; would you consider picking his brains going to play for the first time?
BRANDEN GRACE:テつ You know, I know Louis and I, not for Muirfield, but going into the Masters, I've already planned a trip with Louis going up there a couple of days earlier just to get his knowledge about the golf course and the little tips in and out and what you can use to your advantage.
I think that was one of the main keys why I played so well at the Dunhill.テつ I had a practice round with him before the event, especially after the success he's had with The Open Championship there; having the right lines and things like that.テつ It's nice that we have got players of that calibre like a Louis and Ernie that's won prestigious events like that.
So it's good, I'm sure that a couple of us will play practice rounds together at Muirfield and obviously Ernie is a great guy, and just try and enjoy it and hopefully learn something from him.
PAUL SYMES:テつ Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

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