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Daniel does it again

31st October 2020

Daniel does it again

Daniel van Tonder claimed his fourth victory in his last six Sunshine Tour starts when he won the Investec Royal Swazi Open at the Gary Player Country Club on Saturday.

And now the most dominant player on the Sunshine Tour this year has set his sights on the upcoming European Tour co-sanctioned events and the three-week run of the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open beginning at the end of November.

“All of my titles in my career have come on golf courses that have good greens. I do well on courses with good greens. Randpark Golf Club (Joburg Open), Leopard Creek Golf Club (Alfred Dunhill Championship) and the Gary Player Country Club (SA Open) all have very good greens so, yes, I’m looking forward to those tournaments,” he said.

Van Tonder completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Investec Royal Swazi Open as he closed with a final round of 10 points under the modified stableford scoring system used for this event, giving him a winning total of 48 points.

Neil Schietekat took second place on 30 points after a final round of six points, while MJ Viljoen was third on 29 points after a closing tally of nine points.

The victory was not only another affirmation of Van Tonder’s incredible form since the Tour’s return after the hard lockdown, but also his second in this tournament following his win in 2014. He also won with 48 points on that occasion.

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Van Tonder on track for another win

30th October 2020

Van Tonder on track for another win

For a man who has taken to intermittent fasting, Daniel van Tonder has clearly not lost his appetite for winning.

Van Tonder is on track to claiming his fourth victory in his last six Sunshine Tour starts after entrenching his position at the top of the Investec Royal Swazi Open leaderboard going into Saturday’s final round at the Gary Player Country Club.

The Johannesburg professional added 11 points in Friday’s third round, lifting him to 38 points overall as he tightened his grip on a tournament he has led from day one.

“The greens were a bit firmer out there today and they put some flags in the corners so if you attacked them and misjudged yourself you were in trouble. But other than that, everything about my game still feels great,” said Van Tonder.

Neil Schietekat is his nearest challenger with 24 points following a day in which he added seven points to his total. Anton Haig worked his way into a tie for third place on 22 points after his third round of eight points, and JC Ritchie also ended the day on 22 points following a haul of six points.

Van Tonder is in easily the best form of his professional career, which he puts down to a combination of having good sponsors, his wife’s calming influence on the bag, and his new diet of intermittent fasting. The intermittent fasting in particular has been a gamechanger for him.

It’s something Van Tonder picked up during lockdown, when he lost 25 kilogrammes in a month-and-a-half.

“It’s actually scary how much we eat in a day. Now I only have one meal a day, and that’s dinner. At 10am I have a protein shake, and I pack a bit of biltong and a protein bar into my golf bag in case I get hungry on the course. But my body is used to it now. It just feels like I have more energy throughout the day and can concentrate better.”

And he’s clearly focused on adding to his 2014 triumph in the Investec Royal Swazi Open, which would make him the first double winner since Des Terblanche won in 2003 and 2007. – Michael Vlismas

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Van Tonder still leads at Sun City

29th October 2020

Van Tonder still leads at Sun City

Daniel van Tonder has maintained his position at the top of the Investec Royal Swazi Open leaderboard, and is on track for his fourth Sunshine Tour victory in his last six starts.

Van Tonder added 12 points to his opening 15 (this tournament uses a modified stableford scoring system) to head the field on 27 points through two rounds at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.

His nearest challengers are Neil Schietekat and Oliver Bekker on 17 points. JC Ritchie is currently fourth on 16 points.

Van Tonder was once again in dominant form and clearly enjoying a Gary Player Country Club course that is in impeccable condition for this 50th anniversary of a tournament with a list of past champions including Dale Hayes, John Bland, Mark McNulty, John Daly and Ernie Els.

“I wasn’t even thinking about leading the tournament. I was just focused on going out there and making as many birdies and eagles as I can,” said Van Tonder, who signed for a second round of five birdies, one eagle and three bogeys.

“Leading just comes with the territory. If you make birdies and eagles and keep the bogeys off your scorecard, then the lead comes on its own. You don’t need to think about it.

“The greens were a bit faster today. I had a three-putt today where I thought I actually hit a good putt, but it just didn’t stop rolling. But the course is playing great. The wind was a bit tricky and it was swirling out there, but overall I’m happy.” – Michael Vlismas

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Daniel and Abi a potent team at Sun City

28th October 2020

Daniel and Abi a potent team at Sun City

She is quiet. She is calm. But you would be very wrong if you thought that all Abigail van Tonder does is carry her husband, Daniel’s, clubs around a golf course. She is also a very big part of why Van Tonder cannot stop winning on the Sunshine Tour at the moment.

Van Tonder’s incredible run of form on the Tour is showing no signs of ending anytime soon as the Johannesburg professional ended Wednesday’s first round of the Investec Royal Swazi Open in a familiar position – at the top of the leaderboard.

He scored 15 points at the Gary Player Country Club under the modified stableford scoring system that is used for this tournament, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Van Tonder’s nearest challenger is Estiaan Conradie on 14 points, while Cameron Moralee and Keith Horne are tied third on 11 points.

Hitting fairways and greens is a big part of Van Tonder’s current success. But so is listening to his wife and caddie Abi.

“That’s the secret. Listening to Abi. She’s spot on with the club selection, and I just trust that,” said Van Tonder.

“The course is in great condition. The rough is up and the greens are perfect. I just focused on hitting fairways and greens and making putts.”

Van Tonder is also relishing the typically impressive condition of this iconic golf course.

“With a course this good you can make so many birdies from anywhere. And on these greens, even if you have a 40-metre putt you have a chance of making it if you just get it on the right line.”

Van Tonder came out of the hard lockdown and wasted no time establishing himself as the hottest golfer on the Sunshine Tour.

He won three of the five tournaments on the Rise-Up Series that marked the official restart of the Sunshine Tour’s calendar. And now he’s hunting a fourth victory this year. And his timing couldn’t be better with the announcement of the three European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments of the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open at the end of November and the beginning of December.

“It feels like I can go out and win any tournament at the moment. I’m very happy there’s a few co-sanctioned events coming up. I’ll give myself chances there and hopefully I can take them.”

And for now, he’ll just keep listening to Abi.

“You know, there were a few struggles out there today. A few double bogeys and bogeys that made me feel like I was last on the leaderboard at one point. But on the last hole Abi said just make eagle and get it over with,” he said.

He did. He listened to Abi. – Michael Vlismas.

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A half century of greatness for Investec Royal Swazi Open

27th October 2020

A half century of greatness for Investec Royal Swazi Open

This week’s Investec Royal Swazi Open at the Gary Player Country Club takes on even greater significance on its 50th anniversary, and in light of December’s South African Open being played on the same golf course.

This will be the first major tournament at the Gary Player Country Club since it reopened for play on Saturday 19 September. And it will be a fitting one as the Investec Royal Swazi Open celebrates 50 years as a truly iconic event on the Southern African golf calendar.

“This is the longest standing event on the Sunshine Tour, and it deserves its place in the history of South African golf,” says Selwyn Nathan, Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour.

The field for this 72-hole Sunshine Tour event, which tees off on Wednesday, will certainly relish the opportunity to play this golf course ahead of its hosting of the SA Open, which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour.

In particular, the likes of Darren Fichardt – who has been in good form during the Sunshine Tour’s restart – will appreciate an early look at this course before approaching a South African Open he’d love to win. It’s still the only one of South Africa’s “Big Three” to elude him after his victories in the South African Masters and the South African PGA Championship.

Fichardt and his fellow professionals will encounter a Gary Player Country Club course in impeccable condition considering the low volume of traffic it has had this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

One of the most iconic golf courses in the world joined all South African courses in closing its doors for the duration of the hard lockdown. It was reportedly so quiet that the animals which normally stick to the fringes of this celebrated course bordering the Pilanesburg Game Reserve came as close as grazing on the hotel lawns at Sun City.

It will also serve as a great test for the Sunshine Tour professionals as the second last tournament on the schedule before the big run of three consecutive European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments tees off with the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open.

The restrictions on international travel forced the Investec Royal Swazi Open to be moved from its traditional home of the Royal Swazi Sun Country Club to Sun City this year. But this is not the first time eSwatini’s national Open has been played in South Africa. In 2002, the year Mark McNulty won with a final round of 61, the tournament was played at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club.

This week’s field will also include six Sunshine Ladies Tour professionals. Nobuhle Dlamini is seeking a hat-trick of titles after wins in 2018 and 2019. She also finished runner-up in 2017.

Lejan Lewthwaite is also in the field and having won the SuperSport Ladies Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in February this year. – Michael Vlismas

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Bremner tames Wild Coast

23rd October 2020

Bremner tames Wild Coast

Merrick Bremner battled some of the toughest conditions he’s ever experienced on a golf course to win the Sunshine Tour’s Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge by a single shot at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Friday.

Bremner closed with an incredible round of 64 to win on eight-under-par 202. Keenan Davidse and Jacques Blaauw took second place on seven under, each with final rounds of 68. Keith Horne also signed for a 68 to finish fourth on six under par.

In very difficult conditions typical of the Wild Coast Sun course, Bremner did exceptionally well to not make a single bogey in his final round as he claimed his seventh victory on the Sunshine Tour.

“You know, I gave myself the right opportunities. We were never thinking about keeping bogeys off the card. We were just thinking about giving ourselves as many birdie opportunities as possible,” he said of a round that included three birdies on each nine.

But as easy as he may have made it look, Bremner gave some perspective to the conditions they were faced with.

“It really started gusting quite hard towards the last 30 minutes of the round. It was brutal. I can’t explain it. If you mishit it just slightly, the ball just went nowhere. There were crosswinds that just accentuate any mistake you make. You had to be on top of your game and hit quality shots to make a score.”

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Keenan keen for a win

22nd October 2020

Keenan keen for a win

With 14 top-10s in his career and two runner-up finishes, Keenan Davidse is ready to win on the Sunshine Tour. And he’ll have another shot at it when he heads into Friday’s final round of the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge in a three-way tie for the lead.

Davidse, Peter Karmis and Jacques Blaauw are all tied for the lead on five-under-par 135 through 36 holes of this 54-hole Sunshine Tour tournament at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club.

“It was tricky out there today. There was a two-club wind when we started and it just became worse. But the Wild Coast Sun is always tough with the wind and I just stayed patient,” Davidse said.

The leaders are just one stroke clear of Keith Horne, who signed for a second round of 71. Joint overnight leader Luke Jerling is amongst a strong group chasing them two shots off the lead, and also including young star Jayden Schaper and the experienced Jaco van Zyl.

Of the three leaders, Davidse led the scoring with his second-round 66 in which he birdied two of his first three holes, made back-to-back bogeys thereafter, then started his second nine with a birdie and finished it with three straight birdies. Blaauw signed for a 70 and Karmis a 68 to join him in the lead.

And competing against two multiple winners on the Sunshine Tour, Davidse could be forgiven for thinking this week is his turn.

He’s come close to a maiden title at various stages of his Sunshine Tour career, and also came very close to a European Tour victory when he challenged in the 2017 Joburg Open and eventually finished tied seventh. Last year he was invited to play in the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, which was his first taste of world-class links golf.

But just before lockdown, Davidse says he discovered a deeper spiritual faith and it’s made all the difference to his outlook.

“The golf’s always been the same, but the difference now is my faith. Mentally I’m in a much better space because of it. I’ve realised that winning is not everything and to be more grateful about the position we’re in as professional golfers. I’ve been out here on Tour trying to do it all on my own, and that’s changed now.”

Blaauw has certainly been moving towards a victory as well. On the recently completed Rise-Up Series he finished 18th in the Vodacom Championship Unlocked and then fourth a week later in the Vodacom Championship Reloaded. He was close to sharing the lead in the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge on the first day were it not for a bogey on the last hole. – Michael Vlismas

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Sun City the home of the 2020 South African Open

Sun City the home of the 2020 SA Open

The South African Open Championship will add the iconic Gary Player Country Club to its roster of celebrated golf courses that have hosted this championship as it moves to Sun City this year where it will be played from 3-6 December, with support from Nedbank and Sun International.

The 110th playing of the second oldest national Open in golf, with prize money of R19.5 million, will complete a thrilling three-week run of tournaments co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.

The Sunshine Tour this week announced a strong end to 2020 with the three big events of the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open Championship – all of which forms part of the Tour’s post-lockdown international restart.

“We would like to thank everyone involved in making it possible for the South African Open to go ahead at Sun City under difficult circumstances. The hard work done by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour as well as the support of the sponsors has ensured that the SA Open will continue to be a tournament that we can be proud of,” said Grant Hepburn, Chief Executive Officer of GolfRSA.

Martin Saaiman, acting President of the South African Golf Association (SAGA), said: “We are grateful to the Sunshine Tour, European Tour, Nedbank and Sun International for their support of our national Open and for sharing our desire to see this great championship played despite what has been a very challenging year. The South African Open is not only about the professionals, but also an important stage for our leading amateurs to test their skills as the next generation of stars. We also think it is apt that the Gary Player Country Club will be the host of this year’s championship, considering that Gary Player won a record 13 South African Open titles.”

In the absence of the Nedbank Golf Challenge this year, Nedbank and Sun International – both longstanding sponsors of South African professional golf – agreed to support the country’s national Open and the playing opportunities it provides for South Africa’s leading professionals and top amateurs, while at the same time providing the critical business stimulus required in South African professional golf at this time.

“Nedbank has a long and proud history with the game of golf and we value the role we can play in the restart of South African golf’s international calendar following the COVID-19 lockdown. Traditionally, South African golf fans would have been looking forward to ‘Africa’s Major’ at Sun City at this time of the year, and in this way they can still look forward to a great event in the form of the world’s second oldest national Open,” said Mike Brown, Chief Executive of Nedbank.

Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive of Sun International, said: “We are extremely proud to be able to host the South African Open Championship, one of the flagship tournaments of South African golf. The Gary Player Country Club is in pristine condition as a combination of being well-prepared for the Nedbank Golf Challenge before we had to cancel this year’s event, and the lack of significant traffic as a result of the national lockdown. So we are confident this year’s field will encounter a golf course in excellent condition and very much worthy of this great championship.”

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said he was delighted to be able to confirm such a strong run of co-sanctioned tournaments at the end of the year.

“To have three big tournaments such as the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open Championship in a three-week stretch of international golf of the highest calibre on South African fairways is truly a testament to the incredible relationship we have with the European Tour, and our strong partnerships with our sponsors. We are extremely grateful to Nedbank and Sun International for their decision to support our national Open in this way.”

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “I am delighted to see the South African Open Championship back on our International Schedule this year and sincere thanks go to everyone at the Sunshine Tour, GolfRSA, the South African Golf Association, Nedbank and Sun International for their commitment and support in making this happen.

“Since our season restarted in July, we have taken a measured approach to our tournaments, informed every step of the way by our medical advisers and Government guidance in the countries we play.

“We have also tried to stage consecutive tournaments, wherever possible, in geographical clusters to reduce the onus on international travel, which makes today’s announcement, following on from the news of the Joburg Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championship in preceding weeks on our schedule, all the more pleasing.”

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Jerling and Albertse share lead at Wild Coast

21st October 2020

Jerling and Albertse share lead at Wild Coast

Both Luke Jerling and Louis Albertse took full advantage of the good draw they had on day one of the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge on Wednesday and opened with rounds of six-under-par 64 to lead the field by one shot.

On a largely calm morning on the Wild Coast Sun Country Club course, Jerling and Albertse topped the leaderboard over their nearest challengers in Ockie Strydom, Jacques Blaauw and Keith Horne.

Jerling in particular produced some of the best scoring with a bogey-free round that included a 29 on the front nine, but which played as his second nine on this par-70 layout.

“It was really a tale of two nines for me. I started on the back nine and although I hit the ball solid and didn’t miss a green, I just didn’t make any putts there,” he said of the nine straight pars to start his round.

But then came a run of four consecutive birdies from the first, followed by two more at the sixth and ninth holes.

“I knocked that first birdie in on the first hole and that seemed to get the momentum going. I have a new putter in the bag this week, and I’m just trusting the lines out there. The weather was also good when we teed off just after eleven in the morning, so we were on the right side of the draw.”

Albertse was also off just after 11am, and used the draw as well as his local knowledge of the course to his advantage.

“We had great weather in the morning. I also played a lot of junior golf in these parts, and had enough family holidays playing golf here as well. I gave myself a lot of opportunities out there, and took them,” he said of a round that included a 10-footer for eagle on the par-five 12th hole.

“I’m very happy with this performance. I missed the last two cuts on the Rise-Up Series, and in the two-week break I spent a lot of time with my coach and sports psychologist and figured out a few things.”

The forecast for the next two days indicates wind, but both Jerling and Albertse are ready for the challenge.

“I’m comfortable on this course, and growing up in Port Elizabeth, the wind doesn’t bother me. In that sense the Wild Coast course does play to my strengths. I’m just very excited to be in this position again,” said Jerling.

Albertse feels equally confident.

“The Wild Coast Sun Country Club is always a fun test. I just need to keep myself in it over the next two rounds and keep giving myself chances.” – Michael Vlismas

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Record prize money for 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship

Record prize money for 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship

The 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship will be played for record prize money of R29 million when professionals from the Sunshine Tour and European Tour compete in this prestigious co-sanctioned tournament at Leopard Creek from 26-29 November.

The 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship will anchor a strong run of co-sanctioned tournaments on South African fairways at the end of this year by offering the biggest purse on the Sunshine Tour this season.

The tournament forms part of the Sunshine Tour’s international restart of its schedule, and it will be played according to the strict coronavirus health protocols of both the South African Government as well as the European Tour.

“In our 21st year, we are delighted that we can stage the Alfred Dunhill Championship. We are sorry that we cannot welcome spectators, but we are sure golf fans will understand,” said Guy Sanan, Richemont.

“We would like to thank so many people who have made it possible for us to carry on with this year’s Championship, including the Sunshine Tour and European Tour, the professionals and the officials, volunteers and staff who give up their time to put on this unique event.”

The Alfred Dunhill Championship is one of the flagship events in world golf with its unique setting and ambience, nestled on the banks of the Crocodile River overlooking the magnificent Kruger National Park.

The splendour of the location has been a wonderful backdrop over the years to the world-class golf played, which has been reflected in the quality of its champions.

Since its inception in 2000, the list of past champions has included Major Champions and former world No.1s Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel and Ernie Els. The current champion is Pablo Larrazabal, who kept going last year despite foot problems to win by one shot in an exciting finish.

“The Alfred Dunhill Championship is one of our flagship tournaments and we are extremely grateful to be able to announce it as part of our schedule, and with such a significant increase in prize money,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

“I would like to thank our Chairman, Johann Rupert, for his unflinching support of our efforts to restart our Tour, and for Alfred Dunhill’s longstanding support of professional golf in South Africa.”

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “Our sincere thanks go to Johann Rupert and Alfred Dunhill for what is yet another significant commitment to golf and the longstanding partnership between the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour. Leopard Creek is one of the most unique venues on our Tour, and we are very much looking forward to returning there this year.”