South African Rory Sabbatini will begin the 2019 PGA Tour season by playing under his newly-adopted nation of Slovakia. By Lewis Blain.


South African Rory Sabbatini Switches To Slovakia

“Now on the tee, from Slovakia… Rory Sabbatini” is something you might hear at next week’s Sony Open.

That’s because South African-born Sabbatini has become an official citizen of Slovakia.

The Slovak Golf Association says it will send proof of citizenship to the International Golf Federation, allowing the 42-year-old to play under the country’s flag.

By taking citizenship for the European country, Sabbatini would be eligible to play for them at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Related: 2020 Olympic Golf Format To Stay The Same

Sabbatini was born in Durban and has represented his country of birth on five occasions – including a World Cup with with fellow countryman Trevor Immelman in 2003 as well as appearing in the Presidents Cup in 2007.

The six-time PGA Tour winner is married to Martina Stofanikova, a Slovak native and he also carries Italian, Scottish and Irish ancestry.

Sabbatini said: “I believe that I will be successful for Slovak golf and I will be a source of inspiration for Slovak youth.”

Qualification for the Olympics is based off the World Rankings. Only two players from each country can play in the Olympics (unless they are inside the top 10) until the field is capped at 60 players. Currently Daan Huizing of the Netherlands is number 60 but with him being 340th in the World Ranking, it would enable Sabbatini and Slovakia to qualify based off his bettering World Ranking of 203rd.

The 42-year-old would be the 11th ranked golfer for South Africa, but instead, he will become the PGA Tour’s first ever Slovakian player.

“We believe that Rory will be able to achieve successful results for Slovak golf and can raise the interest of our public and our children to become actively interested in golfing,” said Rastislav Antal, vice president of the Slovak Golf Association.

Related: 2020 Olympic Golf Course Votes To Allow Women Members

This isn’t the first time a golfer has switched nations.

In 2012, Cecilia Cho opted to play for her country of birth, South Korea, having represented New Zealand at amateur level. She moved there when she was eight-years-old and became the women’s amateur number one in 2011.

While Abraham Ancer was born in McAllen, Texas but plays under the Mexican flag due to his dual citizenship. Ancer and his family moved to Reynosa, Mexico where the 27-year-old grew up.

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