Nigeria has been listed as one of the seven countries where pre-qualifiers will be staged for the 2017 Equatorial Guinea Open Championship to be hosted in Mongomo.
The idea, according to Olawale Opayinka of 3e Actuaries, which organizes the annual tournament is to give opportunity to professional golfers from Nigeria and other West African countries seeking to compete in the event a window to berth the 72- hole final round.
Apart from Nigeria, the pre-qualifiers are also to be staged in the United States, Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, UK, and Sweden.
Opayinka said the expansion is a reflection of the growth of the Equatorial Guinea Open Championship brand which is expected to be officially listed on the schedule of the European Challenge Tour in 2017.
Thirty four male players will emerge from the seven qualifying venues and will form a field of 50 players when joined with the 16 automatic qualifiers, while 16 lady qualifiers will join the 14 wild cards to make up the final list of 30 players.
Nigerian players have won three of the four Equatorial Guinea Open tournaments while the West African country is reputed for presenting the largest block of golfers among countries to the event.
But following a not too convincing outing by the Nigerian legion in Mongomo early this month, most of the players will need to pre-qualify to join Oche Odoh and Gift Willy as the automatic wild cards to Mongomo next year.
Opayinka, whose company organized the four editions and included lady professional tournament on the roster this year, said the prize money will be increased to $400,000 next year to attract the best players from all the affiliated professional tours in the world.
The new fee structure will see the men purse raised from $50,000 to $250,000, while the ladies, who also appeared for $50,000, will now play for $150,000.
Craig Hinton of England emerged winner of the 2016 male event while Paz Echeverria of Chile upstaged others to claim the lady prize.