Sunshine Tour, Africlear keeping tournaments “green”

9th March 2021

Sunshine Tour, Africlear keeping tournaments “green”

Africlear, a global specialist in tailor-made packaging solutions, has partnered with the Sunshine Tour to offer a new eco-friendly bottled water solution at the upcoming Sunshine Tour events.

At the next three tournaments – the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am, the Players Championship and the Gauteng Championship presented by Betway – Africlear will provide bottled water for the Sunshine Tour professionals.

But as part of the Tour’s drive to be an environmentally sensitive Tour with a strong focus on limiting the impact its tournaments have on the local environment, Africlear will also offer an extensive plastic bottle recycling programme at each tournament.

“We love golf, we love the incredible golf courses where the Sunshine Tour events are played, and we want to help look after them,” said Africlear CEO Dewald Gelderblom.

“Our goal is to bring clean bottled water at a reasonable price to the Sunshine Tour professionals while at the same time cleaning up afterwards and caring for our environment.”

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, welcomed Africlear as a new partner.

“This is another important step for us in our quest to have partners who add value to what we as a Tour are trying to achieve, and in this instance it’s our desire to make as little impact on the environment of the golf courses where we play and to leave them in the same pristine condition as when they were entrusted to us by the club management and members.”

Birdie blitz earns Enoch second Sunshine Tour title

7th March 2021

Birdie blitz earns Enoch second Sunshine Tour title

It was around 13:30 on Sunday afternoon when Rhys Enoch’s wife, Lynn, sent him a text saying she was sorry but she couldn’t keep her eyes open and was going to have a Sunday nap, and that she hopes he finishes strong in the final round of the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am. He did. He went out and won.

Enoch birdied his final three holes – including a chip-in birdie from the bunker on 17 –  on the East Course to close with a 67 and win by one stroke on 12 under par.

South Africa’s Dean Burmester had already finished in the clubhouse on 11 under par with a 66, but Enoch had to endure watching Jake Redman stand over a roughly two-metre birdie putt on the last to force a playoff. Redman missed the putt to sign for a 72 and share second with Burmester.

“I fully expected Jake to make that putt. I’m sad for him that he missed, but obviously I’m delighted I came out on top,” said Enoch, who added to his 2018 Cape Town Open triumph on the Sunshine Tour.

“I’m over the moon. I really didn’t think I was that close to the lead. When we came up 18 with the leaderboard there, my caddie said to me, ‘Don’t look left. Just focus on your putt’. So I did and made the putt for birdie on 18. Then Jake unfortunately missed his and I’d won.”

With a fast start by the likes of Luke Brown and Redman, Enoch admits he didn’t think he was in the running for the title early in the final round.

“They all shot off to -14 and I was around -8 or -9, and I thought it might have slipped from me. Then I got to 15 and saw I was only two behind. But then I three-putted for bogey to be three behind with three to play. An then came those three birdies. This game is crazy and winning is not easy, but I managed to get over the line today.”

And one of the first things he did was text his delighted wife back, with a photo of him and the trophy.

“This win is extremely satisfying. You know, it’s been really tough with this pandemic. It’s been wonderful to be at home and spend time with my wife and my son Carter. But at the same time it’s been stressful with my golf. It’s just feels great to win. This is like a confirmation of the hard work paying off. And to be able to win on a quality golf course like this makes it even sweeter.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

Luke leads in Kit Kat Group Pro-Am

6th March 2021

Luke leads in Kit Kat Group Pro-Am

Storm clouds forced the suspension of the second round of the Sunshine Tour’s Kit Kat Group Pro-Am on Saturday, but not before Johannesburg professional Luke Brown was able to find the silver lining.

Dangerous weather at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club forced a suspension of play at 16:10, and the round will have to be completed on Sunday morning before the start of the final round.

But Brown was able to make it into the clubhouse with a sublime seven-under-par 65 that carried him to the top of the leaderboard on 10 under par, and which has him chasing his maiden victory on the Sunshine Tour. Jake Redman is currently tied for the lead on 10 under with three holes of his second round to complete.

“You’re always pleased with a round of seven under, but on this course and with the conditions as gusty as they were today, I’m super pleased,” said Brown, a two-time winner on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour who is now looking to make the step up at Sunshine Tour level.

He started his round with an eagle on the par-five first hole, then built on that with four birdies in six holes from the fifth. His only bogey of the round came on the fearsome par-four 11th, but he made up for that by chipping in for birdie on the 16th – following his playing partner Mitchell who did the same just moments earlier – and then finishing with a birdie on 18.

“My wedge play was very good today. I hit so many wedges to inside of two metres. The bogey on 11 didn’t bother me too much because that is just such a tough hole, and the flag was in a very difficult position. Overall I was pleased to have played the par fives a bit better than I did in the first round, stating with the eagle on the first.”

Redman will still have an opportunity to have his say when he wraps up the final three holes of his second round on Sunday morning. Callum Mowat and Malcolm Mitchell are currently next best in the clubhouse on eight under. Young star Jayden Schaper is at seven under with four holes of his second round still to come, while Garrick Higgo will feel he’s not out of it at six under with five holes of his second round still to play.

It’s a busy leaderboard around Brown, but he’s doing his best to keep focused on the only thing he can control.

“In the end it’s still just you and the golf course. Sure, it’s a step up from the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour. The courses are set up harder and the competition is tougher, but this is where I wanted to be at the start of the tournament. So all I can do is just play my own game and not worry too much about everybody else.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour.

Burmester, Strydom share lead in Sunshine Tour opener

5th March 2021

Burmester, Strydom share lead in Sunshine Tour opener

Dean Burmester and Ockie Strydom shared the lead with their rounds of seven-under-par 65 in the first round of the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s East Course on Friday.

They finished a weather-interrupted day one stroke clear of the South African duo of Malcolm Mitchell and Jake Redman, and Welshman Rhys Enoch.

The first tournament of the Sunshine Tour’s 2021 calendar has drawn a strong contingent of young stars including Garrick Higgo, who is two shots off the lead. Jayden Schaper opened with a round of four under 68 and Wilco Nienaber signed for a 69.

Burmester, playing the back nine first, started strong with birdies at holes 10 and 11 which are amongst the longest back-to-back par fours in golf.

“A birdie-birdie start is always nice, especially on those two holes. That definitely boosted the confidence,” he said. “Those are not the easiest par fours out there. For many years they were the longest back-to-back par fours in the southern hemisphere. You need good tee shots on both.”

He capped off his round with an equally strong finish of three birdies in the final four holes.

“When it comes to the front nine here you always feel like you want to take advantage because you have three par fives there. I didn’t birdied the par-five first, so it was nice to get the other two.”

While it was a bogey-free start for Burmester, he still feels there’s room for improvement.

“There’s always work to be done. I didn’t hit too many fairways, but when I missed I was on the right side so I was able to keep giving myself chances. But it’s just so good to be back playing on the Sunshine Tour again, and back at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington as well.”

Strydom, who played his first full round of golf last week after recovering from a back injury, had a more adventurous start with two birdies, two bogeys and an eagle in his opening six holes. His short game came to the fore with that eagle on the par-five sixth where he holed a lob wedge from a difficult downhill lie at the back of the green. Then he finished his round with three straight birdies.

“This is not an easy course. You’ve really got to keep your head around here, so seven under is a good round for me,” he said.

“I’m in a good space with my game. As I’ve recovered from my back injury I’ve been working a lot more on my swing technique with my coach, and it’s starting to show in the ball flight. I have a lot more confidence in terms of my swing and knowing exactly where the ball will go.”

Naidoo has new focus after securing Mackenzie Tour card in US

3rd March 2021

Naidoo has new focus after securing Mackenzie Tour card in US

Sunshine Tour professional Dylan Naidoo will tee it up in Friday’s first round of the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club somewhat jetlagged, but with a very clear vision regarding his future in the game.

Naidoo has just returned from the United States where he managed to secure conditional playing privileges on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour of Canada after finishing tied ninth in their Qualifying School, which was played at Weston Hills Golf Club in Florida at the end of February.

It’s a massive step forward for the 23-year-old professional, who turned pro in 2019 as one of GolfRSA’s top amateur talents and who in his first season on the Sunshine Tour finished third in the Rookie of the Year race behind winner Garrick Higgo and second-placed Wilco Nienaber.

“It’s really exciting and it’s nice to know that I have it in me and have that experience now of playing in a different setting with new players. It gives me confidence for what I’m trying to do with my career,” said Naidoo, who will play the following seven tournaments on the Sunshine Tour before returning to the United States to play on the Mackenzie Tour.

“I want to be the best golfer in the world. I want to be playing on the PGA Tour and European Tour. I feel like this will open my eyes a lot and I’ll probably learn some hard lessons along the way. But it’s the way to go for me.”

Naidoo made the decision to go and qualify when the Sunshine Tour had to postpone the start of its 2021 schedule by one month because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I figured I can either stay here or try and find something to play overseas. Then the United States decided they would implement travel restrictions and not allow South Africans into the country from the end of January. So I had to scramble and get myself over there before these restrictions. I managed to get my things together and left on Thursday 28 January. Fortunately I already had a 10-year visa. I left on the Thursday, arrived in the US on Friday, and from that Saturday onwards they closed the borders to South Africans. So I just made it in. I played a few mini tour events and then the Qualifying School.”

There were 25 cards on offers, with only the top six gaining full status on the Mackenzie Tour and the rest earning conditional status.

“I should be guaranteed starts for at least half of their season. I wanted the top 6, but I still played well and am not going to complain. It’s a good start getting the Mackenzie Tour card because it gives you a firm hold in the US. If you play well there you can get onto the Korn Ferry Tour. My goal this year was to get some playing status on another world tour, and I’ve achieved that.” – By Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

Kruger’s comeback starts with a memory as Sunshine Tour tees off

2nd March 2021

Kruger’s comeback starts with a memory as Sunshine Tour tees off

By Michael Vlismas

Gary Player said change is the price of survival. But the secret for every professional golfer is to know when to change. Or in the case of multiple Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour champion Jbe Kruger, whether you should even change at all.

For Kruger, the search for change to his swing has brought him full circle to the realisation that his old swing is exactly what he needs to get back to. It’s a process he’ll continue with at this week’s Kit Kat Group Pro-Am at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, which begins on Friday and marks the start of the Sunshine Tour’s 2021 schedule.

“I want to get my swing natural again and go back to the root of how I used to play,” says Kruger, who has endured a frustrating few years of trying to change that foundation in the pursuit of improvement.

“My strength was always my ball striking. I was good because I hit the ball really well. I always said I just need to make putts to score well, because I knew I never had to worry about my ball striking. But the last few years that hasn’t been the case. In my desire to improve, I lost that strong point to my game.”

At 1.6 metres tall, Kruger has long been used to punching above his weight in world golf. He’s won six times in his career, and climbed to an Official World Golf Ranking high of 109. But he’s since slipped to 480th in the world.

“The problem is that you spend a few years working on something that just isn’t working out for you. It’s almost like I’ve gone 10 000 hours in the wrong way, so there are a lot of things I now have to unlearn with my swing get rid of. It’s unnatural, and I need to get my swing back to being natural.”

Kruger points out that he is certainly not the first professional golfer to have made the mistake of trying to fix what isn’t broken.

“Take a look at Francesco Molinari. In 2018 he won his first Major and won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. And then he decided he needed to change his swing. In 2011 Luke Donald became the first golfer in history to win both the PGA Tour and European Tour Order of Merits. But he decided that because he’d never won a Major yet, he needed to change his swing. It’s almost like you don’t trust your own process that got you there in the first place.

“I can’t understand why as golfers we all follow the same pattern. The lesson for me is that you can only get better by practising harder. If your basics are good, then practice is the only thing to get better. For me it took at least a year to change my swing, and it felt like two years to get confident with it. Now I have to unlearn that. It’s all about coming to the realisation that what brought you here will keep you here. You forget that. You feel you need to change to get better. But just practising more will make you better.”

Kruger’s desire to change back to the way he used to play is as strong as ever, and one that emerged from a simple frustration.

“You just get tired of playing bad golf. I know how good I was and how good I hit it, and I know the reason. The proof will be in these next tournaments on the Sunshine Tour. I’ve had glimpses of it coming back, but to be honest it feels like I’m only 50% there. But then again, for me that’s a 50% improvement in getting back to what I was. I don’t mean this to sound arrogant, but I was in the top 110 in the world and it didn’t feel hard for me to get there. My memory of that keeps driving me.”

And a conversation with Lee Westwood is also driving him to keep working at it.

“Just recently I spent about an hour chatting to Lee Westwood. I really like getting into other players’ heads and hearing how they think and approach things. His career seemed like it was over at one stage, and then he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. Now, when you speak to him, it’s like he’s young in spirit again. You can see in his eyes he’s just got this love for the game again. Sometimes you run on memory in this game.”

For Kruger, it’s the memory of a swing that was good enough to take a kid from Kimberley to six professional victories.

Photo Credit: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour