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Kaminski qualifies top for Final Stage

28th February 2020

Kaminski qualifies top for Final Stage

Rupert Kaminski’s good form continued in the final round of the First Stage of Qualifying School where he shot a four-under-par 68 to qualify for the final stage top of his class on a total of 21-under-par.

Leading by three shots coming into the final round, Kaminski said he would go all out to try and post a decent score, as any sense of complacency could lead to disaster. He did just that, hitting massive drivers to try and get on the front foot in what would be a weather-affected final round where play had to be suspended for over two hours because of dangerous weather conditions. As a result, a massive number of players – most of whom were not going to make the top 30 nor were they going to share that spot First Stage – retired.

To start his round Kaminski made back-to-back pars and a birdie in his first three holes but those were quickly followed by a bogey. He bounced back on the seventh and eighth holes, making birdies there.

And those must have sparked something to get him firing hot again because he followed those up with a trio of birdies from the 10th through to the 12th. He kept things steady from there onwards, making five pars before a painful bogey got onto his card on the last hole.

“I got off to a bit of a slow start,” Rupert admits. “but I managed to find some momentum in the middle of the round. From there, I just kept it going but I was unfortunate to make a drop on the last hole. In all, I am very happy with the way I played this week.

“I wanted to get it to anything under par and try to get to 20. It was always going to be difficult to repeat  yesterday’s score but I think I did well and 21-under-par is not bad.”

Qualifying behind Kaminski and with the course record of eight-under-par is Gerhard Pepler who finished on a total of 16-under-par.

“This was the best round I’ve ever played in my life.” said Pepler, “I just went out there with no expectations. I just wanted to enjoy the golf. I started well and just kept going from thereon. There was no pressure for me because I was far from the lead and far from the cut, so I just went out to enjoy it.”

Pepler started like a house on fire, birdieing his first four holes and made further gains on the seventh and eighth holes to go six-under and blemish-free on the front nine. Coming home, Pepler made his birdies on the 12th and 14th holes to sign for a perfect 64.

“My chipping and putting game was solid today,” said Pepler of what worked for him. “A round like this gives you confidence and I am now definitely looking forward to next week at Houghton”

Players qualifying for final stage are Rupert Kaminski, Gerhard Pepler, Morne Buys, Luke Brown, Vaughn van Deventer, Rigardt Albertse, Landon Michelson, Gregory Mckay, Basil Wright, Richie O’Donovan, Andrew Williamson, Cameron Moralee, Gaelen Trew, Paul Colditz, Luke Trocado, Brandon Gildenhuys, Ben Firth, Graeme Fransman, Carlo Heunis, Michael Kok, Christopher Van der Merwe, Gordon Neale, Danie Van Niekerk, Matthew Cooper, Kaleb Gorbahn, Stephan Erasmus, CJ Levey, Bradley Diggeden, Nicholaus Frade Roux Jeffery, Bryce Bibby, Caylum Boon and Ruan Groenewald.

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Kaminski pulls three shots clear at State Mines 2

27th February 2020

Kaminski pulls three shots clear at State Mines

Rupert Kaminski backed up his second-round 66 with an error-free seven-under-par 65, a course record here, to take his tournament total to 17-under-par, giving himself a three-shot cushion ahead of the final round of the First Stage of Qualifying School at State Mines Country Club.

While he admits that his ball-striking was spectacular all week long in the East Rand, Kaminski says the season he spent on the Sunshine Tour has taught him a lot of things, some of which he has employed this week at State Mines.

“Qualifying School is a real mental grind,” he notes, “but I seem to be handling it quite alright and I think it’s just testament to the Sunshine Tour and how it builds character and helps you strengthen your game overall. My ball-striking has been really good this week and I have been putting nicely too.”

Kaminski, determined to progress to the final stage which will be staged at Houghton Golf Club next week, showed composure early on in the third round, birdieing the first two holes before making an eagle on the third. Three holes thereafter, another birdie made its way onto his card to go five-under and blemishless on the front nine.

His back nine consisted of two birdies – on the 10th and 11th holes – and those were followed by seven straight pars as he sought to consolidate his lead over amateur Rigardt Albertse who is 14-under-par for the week.

“I have played well this week and I will definitely be taking some momentum into next week,” Kaminski,” Kaminski says. “I will not change anything tomorrow and I will try to shoot the lowest score that I can and just take that confidence with me to Houghton.”

Seven shots off Kaminski lies the duo of Luke Brown and current State Mines club champion, amateur Vaughn van Deventer. In a share of fifth and on nine-under-par is Ireland’s Richie O’Donovan, Basil Wright and amateur Gregory McKay.

Making up the top 10 after 54 holes are Landon Michelson of the United States, Gerhard Pepler and Morne Buys at eight-under for the week.

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Mwandla leads road to Soweto while Kaminski takes to the top at State Mines 1

26th February 2020

Mwandla leads road to Soweto while Kaminski takes to the top at State Mines

The first stage of the Vusi Ngubeni Qualifying School came to its conclusion at Observatory Golf Club on Wednesday, with 31 players qualifying for the Vusi Ngubeni Tournament Presented by the Sunshine Tour and Petrus Kleinbooi to be held at Soweto Country Club next week.

Overnight leader, amateur, Siyanda Mwandla signed for one-over-par 73 in the final round but still qualifies top of the leaderboard on a total of two-under over the 36 holes played here.

“It was a rollercoaster out there today,” admitted Mwandla who was once tipped to develop into a great golfer by Retief Goosen. “But, I hit the ball nicely but I couldn’t  convert the putts that I was supposed to but two-under overall is still decent.”

He, along with the other 30 which include 19-year old Nikhil Rama whose biggest win in the Junior Circuit was that scintillating wire-to-wire victory he pulled in the inaugural Friends of Engelberg Challenge hosted by Anna Becker-Frankel at Devndale Golf and Wine Estate in Stellenbosch to celebrate his national breakthrough last year.

Rama finished in a share of the second spot with Zu Mavunda, with both players finishing on six-over-par after 36 holes.

They now move to the Vusi Ngubeni presented by the Sunshine Tour and Petrus Kleinbooi Tournament with a purse of R100 000 to be played at the beautiful Soweto Country Club in Pimville where Sunshine Tour playing cards will be earned.

Over at State Mines Country Club in the First Stage of Qualifying School where there are 36 more holes to play, it was Rupert Kaminski along with amateurs Rigardt Albertse and Gregory McKay who shot to the summit of the leader board in round two. They are on 10-under-par for the week and have a single shot lead over Luke Brown, in what has been a closely contested first stage of Qualifying School in Brakpan.

Brown occupies the fourth spot while the fifth spot is taken by Vaughn van Deventer. Morne Buys, Dabnie van Niekerk and overnight co-leader, Basil Wright are all seven-under-par and share the sixth position on the leaderboard. Caylum Boon, CJ Levey and Gerard Pepler share the ninth on six-under going to the third round.

Players who qualified  at Observatory GC:

Siyanda Mwandla, Nikhil Rama, Zu Mavundla, Keanan Aysen, Warrick Greentree, Jarryd Govender, Lindani, Presley, Nkosikhona Dilla, Brandon Moodley, Tebello Maphike, Kamalan Munsamy, Ethan Joseph, Alee Solomon, Juninho Classen 75 81, John Sangqu, Norman Sebaku, Donald Makhafola, Songz Sonamzi, Ricco Motsa, Joe Mnyandu, Siphiwe Nhlapo, Phathisi Ndlovu, Tetelo Jonathan Seseni, Neo Mokgatle, Thabo Motale, Mchumane Wayiti, SP Mthethwa, Arnold Mazibuko, Norman Lucas, Adonis Johnson, Ashwin Krishen.


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Basil gets it right early on at State Mines 2

25th February 2020

Basil gets it right early on at State Mines

The first stage of Qualifying School began at State Mines Country Club while the first stage of the Vusi Ngubeni Tournament presented by the Sunshine Tour and Petrus Kleinbooi also got underway at Observatory Golf Club on Tuesday.

Out at State Mines, Basil Wright got off to a fast start as he works to reclaim his Sunshine Tour playing privileges, firing in an opening six-under 66 to lead by one shot after round one. Wright made three birdies on the front nine and the same number of birdies made it onto his card on the homeward stretch en route to a bogey-free 66. He ties the score with Gordon Neale of the United States.

“It was a superb round of golf.” said Wright after his round, “I just had to knuckle down and play the best golf that I know I am capable of and just prove that I am worthy of being on Tour again. For a while now I have been shooting under-par and I now have a new coach and we have done a lot of work and mentally, I am much stronger. I am happy to see some of the work starting to show.”

With a single-stroke lead after round one, Wright knows he can’t get carried away just yet and says his objective is to string together solid rounds of golf this week.

“I’m taking it easy,” he said, “I am not putting pressure on myself. I’m looking at it as another golf tournament that I want to win but I don’t want to put pressure on myself.”

At Observatory, Siyanda Mwandla sits at the top of the leaderboard with a five-shot lead after he carded a three-under-par 69 to get his pursuit of a Sunshine Tour playing card on the go.

Starting off the 10th tee, Mwandla opened with a birdie but two pars later those gains were gone as he dropped on the 13th, his fourth hole of the day. He then made 11 straight pars before making a game-changing eagle on his 16th hole. A par on the 17th followed before he closed off with a birdie on the last to sign for the lowest score of the day.

“I came here prepared,” said Mwandla, and it was a great round. I am currently at my best level and my objective is to get to the main qualifying school after this. Leading by five, I’m not really worried about what happens tomorrow because it’s another day. I am playing great golf and as I said, I’m at the best level right now.

“I am happy with how I am playing and the only thing I might say worries me a hit is controlling my spin. But tomorrow, I’m going to go out there and do the same thing. If anything, I’ll just try to control my ball flight a little better but overall, I am happy with the round.”

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Double delight for Higgo as he claims Tour Championship

23rd February 2020

Double delight for Higgo as he claims Tour Championship

Garrick Higgo claimed a come-from-behind one-stroke victory over Haydn Porteous in the season-ending Tour Championship which was held at Serengeti Golf and Lifestyle Estate to finish a successful rookie season on Tour.

Higgo started the round one shot off Ockie Strydom’s overnight lead, at 13-under-par, and had some work to do to earn his second title in his rookie season – having claimed the Sun City Challenge last June.

He went around the front nine of the Serengeti Signature golf course in 33 and bogey-free. But it was Thriston Lawrence who was leading at that time. Two birdies, an eagle and a bogey followed on the back nine – his favourite nine of the course, by his admission – to sign for a six-under 66 final round which took his tournament score to 19-under-par 269.

“I wasn’t really expecting to win this one,” admitted Higgo after his scintillating round. “I just came here to play my best golf and have some fun. And even today, it didn’t really feel like I was up there but things kind of changed on 16 when I made the eagle and I don’t know what Thriston did. I don’t really like the front nine here so I was happy to get out of there with w decent score.

“Thriston Lawrence was already 19-under through the first nine so I knew I had to go for it on the back nine and I did. But I missed a short putt on 13, 14 and then made bogey on 15 and I thought ‘whoa, now I’ve got to go eagle, birdie, birdie to have a chance. Then things changed on 16.”

To make it even a sweeter finish to the season for Higgo, he was also awarded the Bobby Locke Trophy for a superb rookie season in which he claimed two wins (Tour Championship title included), a runner-up finish in Cape Town and three top 10 finishes among other great results.

“I’m very proud to win the rookie of the year trophy,” said the 21-year old Garrick who plays out of De Zalze Golf Club. “It will look really good on my CV and I’m sure there have been big names that have won it before. That race was quite tight, you know, I think Wilco (Nienaber) snuck up on me there a little bit but now I’m very happy that I’ve got it done.”

Higgo already has his European Challenge Tour card secured for the current season on that circuit and will look forward to the new Sunshine Tour season with keenness thanks to a great first season as a professional.

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Strydom hangs on as Higgo and company lurk

22nd February 2020

Strydom hangs on as Higgo and company lurk

Ockie Strydom will take a narrow one-stroke lead into the final round of the season-ending Tour Championship after he carded a second-round two-under 70 on moving day to get his total to 14-under-par for the week at Serengeti Golf and Lifestyle Estate.

He admits to struggling with his ball-striking, in particular, and as such, failing to back up his round two score of 63 with another solid round on day three.

“Today was a bit tough for me,” says Strydom, “ball-striking wasn’t there but luckily, with the round being suspended due to the weather, I found something on the back nine there. Then, I started hitting the ball well again, but it was a bit too late. I am happy I managed to go around the golf course on two-under-par with the ball-striking that went haywire.”

With dangerous weather conditions proving to be the enemy of skill once again in the latter stages of the round – and which called for play to be suspended just as had happened in round two – Strydom had it all to do as he tried to hold on to his lead.

He made birdies on the first hole, the fourth and the seventh, but the bogeys he made on the fifth and the eighth holes took from those gains. His back nine was quiet too and he made eight pars there which were accompanied by the one birdie he made on the 16th.

Chasing closely and just a shot off Strydom’s lead is the trio of Thriston Lawrence who wants to tin this after he finished second last year, the resurgent Haydn Porteous and rookie of the year, Garrick Higgo who signed for a 66 in round three to throw his name in the mix ahead of the final round. They are all 13-under par while Brandon Stone and Luke Jerling aren’t far off the lead either.

The share the fifth spot on 12-under for the week. Veteran Keith Horne, who shot the lowest round of the day – eight-under 64 – and Order of Merit-chasing Daniel van Tonder lie three shots behind Strydom on 11-under while Jacques Blaauw, Darren Fichardt and member of the Gary Player Class, Keenan Davidse share ninth on 10-under-par.

The final round will be streamed live on the Sunshine Tour Facebook and YouTube platforms from 10h30 on Sunday.

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Ockie goes low to lead by 2 at Tour Championship

21st February 2020

Ockie goes low to lead by 2 at Tour Championship

Ockie Strydom moved to Serengeti Golf and Lifestyle Estate a little over a year ago and admits the little course-knowledge he has amassed during that time helped him a lot on his way to a nine-under 63 second-round of the Tour Championship which is hosted there.

That score catapulted him to the summit of the leaderboard on a total of 12-under for the week, and with a two-shot lead over Brandon Stone heading into the weekend. While the weather was kind when he and most of the field were out on the course, the round had to be suspended due to dangerous weather conditions which began to develop around noon.

“It’s always nice playing on your home course,” said Strydom “If I’d made all my putts on the front nine, I probably would have shot a 28 there. I know the course and I know the greens here, so if I hit it on the right spots, I’ll generally knock it in.”

Strydom looked comfortable from the start on day two, refusing to let any bogey come onto his card, and instead, walking away with a birdie and an eagle on the front nine. But it was on the homeward stretch where he turned things up a little bit.

He made back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th holes and after the par he made on 13, another birdie found its way onto his card. He made par on 15 before bagging three more birdies on the trot to finish bogey-free and take the lead for the first time in this tournament.

“You have to stay patient, however,” he said, “because things were a little bit slow on the front nine but I was patient enough and sometimes things will work better on the back nine there.” Things definitely worked better for him coming home.

Stone was equally impressive en route to his seven-under 65 round which took his total to 10-under for the week. Teeing off the 10th, his front start was a lot different to Strydom’s. He made five birdies there to turn in 31 and without a bogey too. Coming home on the other side of the course, Stone made bogey on his 11th hole, the second of the course.

That was quickly forgotten as he made up for that with a birdie on the next hole. He kept things steady for the next four holes, making important pars to keep the round alive. Then, on his second-last hole, a much-welcomed eagle got onto his card to take his total to 10-under and leaving him just two shots off Strydom’s lead.

“I probably had more one-putts in this round of golf than the entire season combined,” said Stone after his round. “But any time you shoot a 65 you can’t really complain or moan about anything. I played solid golf, read the lines nicely and rolled the ball a little better. They found the hole today because it seemed they had been afraid of the dark for the last couple of months, so it was nice to see those putts disappear.”

The defending champion, Jean-Paul Strydom and Thriston Lawrence are tied for third at nine-under-par.



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Early lead as Strydom gets title-defense underway 1

20th February 2020

Early lead as Strydom gets title-defense underway

Jean-Paul Strydom fired in a solid six-under-par 66 opening round of the Tour Championship to get his title-defense underway at Serengeti Golf and Lifestyle Estate.

Strydom claimed victory here last year, defeating Jean Hugo, Jake Roos, Ockie Strydom and Thriston Lawrence by a single stroke at 14-under-par to claim his only title on Tour.

He started this year’s edition solidly, making back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th hole, having teed off from the 10th tee. He would not make another birdie for the next four holes but didn’t drop a single shot there, either. He turned things up a bit and birdied the 16th, 17th and 18th holes to turn in 31.

“I played nicely and solidly,” he said after his round, “and I think we missed only about two or three fairways today. I played solidly off the tee, kept it in play and putted nicely. I think I missed two fairways today. I made three (birdies) in a row – 16, 17 and 18 – which is a bonus. This nine is always the trickier one with the wind coming in so it makes those holes even trickier. But I come for the wind (Cape Town) so, that kind of benefitted me today.”

His back nine – the front nine of the golf course – was a little indifferent because despite picking up two birdies there, Strydom also dropped a shot on his 13th hole.

A shot behind Strydom lies one of last year’s runners-up, Thriston Lawrence, Haydn Porteous, Daniel Greene, Rhys Enoch of Wales and leading rookie, Garrick Higgo.

“I played nicely today, starting with a 20-foot birdie-putt,” said Higgo who effectively has the rookie race won. “I hit the ball average though and I think my putter saved me today. My tee shots were great and because the fairways can be quite wide here so you can miss a few fairways here and the rough isn’t that long. Today, I guess, it just came down to wedge-play and putting.”

Occupying the fourth spot today at four-under 68 is James Hart du Preez, Luke Jerling who has seen his stock rise this season thanks to a couple of solid results, Christiaan Basson and another rookie who has really impressed this season, Deon Germishuys.

Jacques Kruyswijk, Jacques Blaauw, JC Ritchie, Brandon Stone and Ockie Strydom share 11th at three-under. With this being the final event of the regular season, Ritchie and Daniel van Tonder have it all to play for because they are both trying to win the Order of Merit and with Jaco Ahlers not in the field this week, that race is between the two of them.

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Down to the wire for Ritchie and Van Tonder at Serengeti

19th February 2020

Down to the wire for Ritchie and Van Tonder at Serengeti

It’s down to the wire for JC Ritchie and Daniel van Tonder in the Tour Championship which tees off at Serengeti Estates tomorrow.

The pair has emerged as the two most likely winners in the race for the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and they will be keeping a wary eye on the other as they jostle to get their hands on the Sid Brews trophy – as well as the attendant extras which the winner receives.

Ritchie leads by just short of R135,000 in the winnings column on the 2019-20 Order of Merit. That means that a second-place finish for Van Tonder should allow him to overhaul Ritchie – provided Ritchie finishes 10th or worse.

Of course, should Van Tonder win at Serengeti, then Ritchie would have to finish third to hold him off and finish the season at the summit of the listings.

Last year, Ritchie finished the season-ending tournament in a share of ninth, and Van Tonder closed out his efforts for the season in a share of 15th.

The current holder of third position on the Order of Merit, Jaco Ahlers, is in Asia playing the final stage of the Asian Tour’s qualifying school, together with Hennie Otto, Neil Schietekat and Trevor Fisher Jnr from inside the top 50 on the South African listings. So Ahlers will have no further say in the battle for top spot.

Also absent from the list of players who could have had a material influence on the way the top 10 of the Order of Merit could look like after the Tour Championship are Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who is playing the World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship, and Wilco Nienaber, who is gearing up to play in the Oman Open on the European Tour which gets underway on February 27.

The other two players from inside the Sunshine Tour’s 2019-20 top 50 who won’t be teeing it up at Serengeti this week are Englishmen Toby Tree and Jack Harrison.

That leaves a field of 41 who will be looking to win the trophy in the Tour Championship.

But the focus will be firmly on Ritchie and Van Tonder as they try to pull off the win in the race for the Order of Merit title.


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Bez eyes up Masters spot as he takes on Mexico

17th February 2020

Bez eyes up Masters spot as he takes on Mexico

The latest Official World Golf Ranking list issued today says it’s so. Christiaan Bezuidenhout is the second-best golfer from South Africa after his victory in the Dimension Data Pro-Am last week.

Bezuidenhout climbed to 48th from 60th on the list, leap-frogging Erik van Rooyen and Shaun Norris in the process as he eagled the last hole in a thrilling climax to a tournament that saw him duelling with George Coetzee for the entire final round. He is now the closest South African to Louis Oosthuizen, who slipped a single spot to 17th this week.

Bezuidenhout is now set fair for a tilt at a spot in the Masters in April if he can keep himself inside the top 50 in the world until the week before the first major championship of the year gets underway at Augusta National on April 9.

He heads off to Mexico this week for the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, together with fellow-South Africans Branden Grace, Justin Harding, Zander Lombard, Norris, Louis Oosthuizen and Van Rooyen. The seven South Africans make up fractionally short of 10 percent of the 72-man field in a no-cut event that will be stacked with world ranking points.

With Van Rooyen, Harding, Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman already in the field for this year’s Masters, Grace and Norris in particular will be keen to pick up enough points to get them into the reckoning for a trip down Magnolia Lane.

Van Rooyen is 52nd, Norris 61st and Grace 71st. With the likes of world number one Rory McIlroy leading all of the world’s top 10 – except Tiger Woods – into action this week, a solid finish could catapult those close enough to 50th on the rankings above the benchmark and set them up for one of the most coveted invitations in golf.

Bezuidenhout, who started the year ranked 87th, exhibited the kind of form which made him a debut European Tour winner last year in June when he took the Andalucia Masters. He had been in good form in 2020 so far too, with a play-off defeat to Australia’s Lucas Herbert in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January.

The manner of his victory in the Dimension Data Pro-Am will give him the confidence he needs to take this opportunity to cement his place inside the world’s elite for the foreseeable future.

Given that the Mexico tournament will be his first taste of play in the WGC series, he is certain to pick up world ranking points for even an average performance. The other South Africans in the field, however, will be looking for more than that.

South Africa’s Top 10

  1. Louis Oosthuizen (17)
  2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (48)
  3. Erik van Rooyen (52)
  4. Shaun Norris (61)
  5. Branden Grace (71)
  6. Justin Harding (91)
  7. Dylan Frittelli (118)
  8. JC Ritchie (120)
  9. Dean Burmester (160)
  10. George Coetzee (169)