Strong South African challenge chasing glory at Leopard Creek

5th November 2020

Strong SA challenge chasing glory at Leopard Creek

A strong South African challenge will gather at Leopard Creek for this year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship from 26-29 November as they seek to return the famous bronze leopard trophy back to home soil following victories by foreign golfers for the past two years.

The four European Tour winners of Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Brandon Stone, George Coetzee and Dean Burmester will spearhead the quest for a South African winner of this prestigious championship following last year’s victory by Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal and the 2018 triumph by American David Lipsky.

Larrazabal has confirmed that he will return to defend the title he won in spectacular fashion last year as he battled through blisters on the final day to claim his fifth European Tour title.

But the South Africans are as determined as ever to reclaim their dominance of this championship, and on a golf course that is close to all of their hearts.

“Leopard Creek is one of my favourite courses worldwide, and the Alfred Dunhill Championship is one of the tournaments I’d love to win just because it’s played at such a special course,” said Bezuidenhout, who is currently the highest ranked South African in the Alfred Dunhill Championship field at 58th in the world.

The young star will heads to Leopard Creek after competing in his first Masters, and with the confidence of a solid performance on the PGA Tour this year where he made the cut in seven of the 10 tournaments he played, including four top-25 finishes.

After claiming his maiden European Tour title in the Andalucia Masters in 2019, Bezuidenhout started the year with a win in February’s Dimension Data Pro-Am and went on to break into the top on the Official World Golf Rankings.

“I’m getting more comfortable with where my game is at and my swing, and the whole environment of playing on the European Tour and PGA Tour and playing with the best players in the world,” he said.

Stone will be looking to join Charl Schwartzel and Pablo Martin as the only multiple winners of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, and is relishing the prospect of returning to Leopard Creek and the golf course’s unique setting on the banks of the Crocodile River overlooking the magnificent Kruger National Park.

“I’ve always loved this tournament and this golf course. It’s a tournament I’ll play for the rest of my career. To be able to have my name on that trophy is special,” he said.

The allure of Leopard Creek is an equally strong source of inspiration for Coetzee and Burmester.

“Every South African player loves to come back to Leopard Creek. The feeling you get from the course, especially with the views from some of the holes, is just unbelievable. There’s nothing else in the world that can compare to it. You get Pebble Beach with the ocean, St Andrews with the history, but then you get Leopard Creek and the wildlife. I’ll travel from anywhere in the world to come to play in this event,” said Coetzee.

The 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship will be played for R29 million in prize money, making it the richest event on the Sunshine Tour this season.

Germishuys leads with 64 at Wingate

4th November 2020

Germishuys leads with 64 at Wingate

A change in putter paid off for Deon Germishuys as he came through Wednesday’s first round of the Time Square Challenge with a one-stroke lead at Wingate Park Country Club.

Germishuys opened with a bogey-free eight-under-par 64, with Malcolm Mitchell and Anton Haig his nearest challengers following their rounds of 65.

Keenan Davidse is once again also in contention with his first round of 66, and following finishes of second and seventh in his last two Sunshine Tour events.

Germishuys has been in good form of late with finishes of 12th and 14th in his last two tournaments. But what carried him to the top of the leaderboard on Wednesday was his performance on the greens.

“I felt very comfortable on the greens today. I’ve recently moved to an arm-lock putter. My coach told me on Monday that I look good with it and I should just commit to it, so that’s what I did,” he said.

“It was an awesome day out there. It’s never that easy to go bogey-free in a round, but it certainly helps. Wingate also suits my eye because I enjoy parkland golf courses.”

Germishuys had two top-10 finishes on the Sunshine Tour’s recent Rise-Up Series, and his 64 on Wednesday is certainly a further confidence boost ahead of the three European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments of the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open at the end of this month and the beginning of December.

“I’ve been comfortable with my game since the Sunshine Tour’s restart. I really feel like I’m getting close to where I want to be. I’m confident with my golf, and I’m really excited for the three big events to come,” he said.

As one of his nearest challengers going into Thursday’s second round, Haig is also showing signs of consistent good form.

He finished eighth in last week’s Investec Royal Swazi Open, and can add finishes of 12th in the Vodacom Championship Reloaded and ninth in the Betway Championship as his top finishes in the last seven tournaments on the Sunshine Tour. – Michael Vlismas

Coetzee relishing Joburg Open return

3rd November 2020

Coetzee relishing Joburg Open return

George Coetzee has confirmed he will play in all three of the upcoming Sunshine Tour and European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments, starting with a return to the Joburg Open which was the first of the five European Tour titles he has won.

Coetzee heads to Randpark Golf Club for the 19-22 November Joburg Open with memories of his first European Tour title in this event in 2014 still fresh in his mind.

“I’ve always thought that the Joburg Open is one of the most beautiful trophies on Tour, probably because it was my first European Tour win. I’m very excited that it’s making its comeback on the Tour. It’s been missed the last couple of years,” Coetzee said of a tournament that is back on the international schedule for the first time since 2017.

Coetzee is very aware of the role the Joburg Open played in launching his international career. This September he added his fifth European Tour title in the Portugal Masters, and this was also his first European Tour victory in Europe.

“When I think back on it now I feel very lucky to have won the Joburg Open in 2014. I remember I was so nervous and I hit some shaky shots in the final round. I started that final round a few shots behind which made it a little bit easier to be more aggressive. But it was nice to tick that box of a first European Tour win because it gave me the confidence to know I can do it, and I used that confidence for my other European Tour wins.

“This year’s victory in Portugal was another box ticked because it was always my goal to win in Europe. I targeted a couple of events where I thought I’d have a really good opportunity of winning, and Portugal was one of them. It all worked out pretty well that week.

“Hopefully I can put a similar plan together for these three upcoming co-sanctioned tournaments in South Africa. I’m very excited about these three tournaments. I think the Sunshine Tour and European Tour have done a great job in getting these co-sanctioned tournaments to take place this year. I think everybody is very excited for the opportunity to play some serious golf.”

Bongi Mokaba, Director of Events for the City of Johannesburg, said: “We’re delighted to have George confirm his place in the field as not only a great former champion of this tournament, but also a current European Tour champion. The Joburg Open was launched with a vision to be a tournament of opportunity in a world-class African city, and it has certainly been this as it helped to tee off George’s international career.”

Coetzee has been in great form this year with a victory on the Sunshine Tour’s Rise-Up Series in the Titleist Championship to add to his European Tour triumph.

He also heads to Randpark with the chance to become the third golfer to win this tournament twice. Charl Schwartzel (2010 and 2011) and Richard Sterne (2008 and 2013) are the only golfers to have achieved this since the tournament teed off in 2007.

A timely Time Square Casino Challenge for SA pros

A timely Time Square Casino Challenge for SA pros

This week’s Time Square Casino Challenge at Wingate Park Country Club will be the final tune-up for the Sunshine Tour professionals before a big summer featuring three European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments.

The 54-hole tournament offers a R700 000 purse for the Sunshine Tour professionals competing. But beyond that will be their desire to use this week as the final preparation for the upcoming three-week Summer Swing of the Joburg Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open.

The good news for the rest of the field this week is that Daniel van Tonder has decided to take a week off.

Van Tonder has been the hottest golfer on the Tour since its restart in August, winning four of the last six tournaments. But he’s decided to take this week off and prepare for a Summer Swing where he hopes to turn his current form into a maiden European Tour title.

“I’m just taking this week off from tournaments because I want to work on some things to make sure everything is ready to go for the three co-sanctioned tournaments. So I’m just putting in some work on my own to make sure I’m ready for those,” he said.

Van Tonder is certainly not alone in seeking to capitalise on the upcoming run of co-sanctioned tournaments on home fairways, which tees off on 19 November with the Joburg Open.

MJ Viljoen will feel confident about his own chances. Currently second on the money list behind Van Tonder, Viljoen hasn’t finished worse than 35th in the last seven tournaments, including three top-10s. His seventh-place finish in last year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship will also have convinced him he has what it takes to compete against European Tour fields.

Jacques Blaauw also came very close to a maiden European Tour title when he finished second in the 2015 Tshwane Open. His last three Sunshine Tour events have seen him finish fourth, second and sixth. – Michael Vlismas