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Blaauw and Ko share lead in Cape Town

30th April 2021

Blaauw and Ko share lead in Cape Town

Frenchman Jeong-Weon Ko signed for a sublime second-round 64 with a front nine of 29 to join South Africa’s Jacques Blaauw at the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club.

Ko, who was born in France but is of South Korean descent, took advantage of a magnificent morning in the Mother City and climbed to nine under par for the tournament. Blaauw, the overnight leader, played in the slightly more windy afternoon conditions and added a 69 to also finish on nine under. They are one stroke clear of New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier.

Ko made the biggest inroads on the leaderboard as he birdied his first five holes in succession – a first for him – and added two more birdies at the seventh and the ninth to go out in 29. After further birdies at the 11th and 12th holes he made his only bogey of the round at the 14th.

“It went pretty smoothly right from the beginning. I didn’t have to worry about anything. When all those putts kept rolling in, there’s no better feeling than that,” said the winner of the 2015 French Amateur.

“I made some long putts in those five birdies. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I didn’t think too much about the score. I just kept on doing my thing and staying focused.”

Blaauw’s round didn’t start as smoothly as he bogeyed his first hole, the par-four 10th. But he held his game together and came inches close to taking the outright lead on the ninth, his final hole. But his birdie putt lipped out.

“It was tricky with the wind in the beginning. I played it as a two-club wind, and then luckily it died down towards the end of the round. I had a target of reaching 10 under today and came up one short. But I’m very pleased and looking forward to the weekend here in Cape Town, where I grew up,” he said.

While Blaauw will draw on his good memories of growing up in Cape Town, Ko seems to also be inspired by South Africa. The last time Ko was in the country for golf he was an amateur playing against GolfRSA’s finest in 2015. He also contended going into the weekend of last week’s Limpopo Championship, ending a frustrating period in his golf.

“I’m very pleased. It shows that the work I’ve put in is paying off. We have a lot of courses like this in France so I’m pretty used to this kind of golf course. They can be tricky, but I enjoy playing courses like this. Before the Limpopo Championship I was a bit down about my game. I was worried. But playing better at the Limpopo Championship gave me a lot of confidence going into this week, and I feel like I can trust my game more,” he said.

And it also doesn’t hurt that his accommodation this week is right on the beach, giving him the best taste of what makes Cape Town such a magical city.

“Our apartment is very close to the beach, so it’s gorgeous. It feels great to just relax there.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Blaauw leads on blustery opening day at Royal Cape

29th April 2021

Blaauw leads on blustery opening day at Royal Cape

Jacques Blaauw built on the already good memories he has of Royal Cape Golf Club and added another one on Thursday as he posted a bogey-free six-under-par 66 to lead the first round of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

Blaauw finished a day of rain and wind in the Mother City with a one-shot lead over fellow South African Tristen Strydom, Denmark’s Martin Simonsen and New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier. A total of 18 players were unable to complete the first round because of darkness and will do so on Friday morning. But it’s unlikely to affect Blaauw’s lead.

“I grew up in Cape Town and played this golf course a lot. It’s like coming back to a place where a lot of good memories have been made,” said Blaauw, who was pleased to finally put together a bogey-free round amidst what has been a frustrating period in his game.

“I’m very happy. As of late I haven’t been playing very well, so I’m very happy with six under par and without any bogeys in these tricky conditions. My caddie and I were speaking last week about putting together a few bogey-free rounds, so it was nice to do that here.”

The Cape weather welcomed this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour field in typical fashion with a wet start to the round and then enough wind to keep them all guessing throughout the day.

“The wind here is always either downwind or into you, so it can be tricky because you’re either coming up short or can fly the green with your approaches. There are a couple of holes that are long into the wind. This morning we had a couple of holes where I was hitting four iron for my second shot into par fours. But I’m enjoying these greens a lot. They’re running at a great pace.”

Much like most of the world’s professionals at the moment, Blaauw went in search of more distance off the tee and it ended up hurting more than helping his game. For this week, he says he’s returned to playing the shots he feels more comfortable with.

“I started looking for speed and hitting the ball further, but that didn’t work for me. I wasn’t looking to hit the ball consistently further, but rather maybe to just have that extra five metres if I needed it. But my hands started taking over and I started struggling with my game. But this week we went back to hitting the shots I like. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and not get ahead of myself.”

One shot behind him, Strydom enjoyed another good start for the second week in succession. The saying is usually that behind every good golfer is a good woman. But in Strydom’s case, being the good man alongside a good woman golfer recently has helped him this week.

“I caddied for my girlfriend (the amateur Bronwyn Doeg) a few weeks ago when the Cape Town Ladies Open was played at Royal Cape, and I kind of planned how I was going to play it then. It was nice to see the course from the other side, as a caddie. I could see where not to hit it, and I think that definitely helped me for this week, especially on the greens. When she played here I could see they weren’t breaking that much and I put that in the memory bank for this week.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Stone predicts more South African success on Challenge Tour 1

28th April 2021

Stone predicts more South African success on Challenge Tour

Brandon Stone is confident that the current hot trend in South African professional golf will continue in this three-week stretch of European Challenge Tour events in South Africa, and including in this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open which tees off at the Royal Cape Golf Club on Thursday.

The R3 million Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour as part of a three-week stretch of tournaments including last week’s Limpopo Championship and next week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.

Stone returns to Royal Cape in great form as the winner of last week’s Limpopo Championship and the 2015 winner of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open. His win last week came on a golden Sunday for South African golf when Garrick Higgo also won on the European Tour, and Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel came desperately close to winning in the Zurich Classic team event on the PGA Tour before losing in a playoff.

“Make no mistake, the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour are tremendous tours. These guys are hungry to play. They want to win. South Africans have typically been extremely hard to beat on home shores, and I have no doubt I won’t be the last South African to hold a Challenge Tour trophy over my head in this three-week stretch,” he said.

“You just had to look at last week. I won a four-man playoff against three other great Sunshine Tour professionals. I know I’ve got a bulls eye on my back, and I’m not expecting any free cappuccinos at Royal Cape.”

South Africans have won five of the last eight editions of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open. And of those five past champions, four are back in the field this week including Stone, Jake Roos, Jaco Ahlers and Jacques Kruyswijk.

Irishman Michael Hoey is amongst the Challenge Tour contenders this week, and agrees with Stone about how tough it is to beat the South African golfers on their home fairways.

“The South Africans are obviously dominant here. They’re very very good and it’s hard for us to compete, especially at this time of the year for them, compared with us in Europe and the weather there.”

Stone’s victory last week was his first European Challenge Tour title and also his first win since 2018, and he was pleased to lift a trophy again early in a year where he has big goals.

“I haven’t won in a few years and to get that monkey off my back is great. But there’s a long season ahead. I’m just looking forward to getting going here in Cape Town. I’m hoping to use the Limpopo Championship victory to catapult the season and turn it into a 2021 that I can be proud of.

“The objective for these three Challenge Tour events was to earn as many world ranking points as I can and then continue to build on that, with the goal of a place in the top 50 by the end of 2021. This is definitely a result I can launch the season from.”


Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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It's pros vs Stormers rugby stars in Bain's Whisky Cape Town Open

27th April 2021

Cape Town and Stormers welcome Sunshine Tour

The Mother City’s finest rugby players arrived at the Royal Cape Golf Club on Tuesday to personally welcome the Sunshine Tour professionals competing in this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open in the only way they know how – with a match.

After the official pro-am of the tournament, DHL Stormers stars Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni and Neethling Fouche challenged Sunshine Tour professionals Brandon Stone, Daniel van Tonder, Keenan Davidse and Benjamin Follett-Smith to a par-three contest on Royal Cape’s fourth hole.

Playing as a team against each other, the Sunshine Tour professionals were handicapped by having to play from their worst tee shot and each pro also had to play each of their shots or putts twice before they could score, while the Stormers could play from their best shot and only needed one shot or putt to score.

The result was a convincing 4-0 victory by the Stormers.

“Going 0-4 against four big rugby players on home turf was a tough pill to swallow. I would say we’ll meet them in the car park, but looking at the size of them probably not,” said Stone, who captained the Sunshine Tour professionals for this challenge.

But although pleased with the victory, the rugby players were simply delighted to have played a hole with the Sunshine Tour pros and seen, from “inside the ropes”, another side of them from what they follow on television.

“It’s so great to have a Sunshine Tour event in Cape Town and we’re looking forward to watching them on TV. I think for the whole of Cape Town it’s quite an exciting event,” said Kitshoff.

Fouche was just as delighted with the experience. “What a privilege to have played with these pros. I’m a massive golf fanatic, and to play with them and see that they’re just human beings like us was a privilege. What a day.”

And Ntubeni, who holed the winning putt for his team, admits to never having been this nervous before.

“There’s a lot of banter until you stand over that ball. It’s quite stressful. I can imagine how hectic it is for them in a tournament. It was so good to meet them. To have them in our city is so important for other aspiring young golfers out there, and even for us as keen golfers. We look up to them, and we wish them the best of luck for this week.”

Malherbe was also full of respect for the pressure the pros face during competition.

“There’s a lot more pressure on individual sports. It’s only up to them. In a team you have the safety of your teammates. So it was awesome to see how they go about it. What a nice experience. I wish the guys all the best this week.”

Professional Van Tonder said he’s ready for a return match against the rugby players. “I would’ve liked to have taken them on over a par five where I can intimidate them a bit with my driver. But it was great fun. They’re a great bunch of guys.”

The Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open is a tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour and tees off at Royal Cape Golf Club with the first round on Thursday.


Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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A lesson in dreams from JC Ritchie

26th April 2021

A lesson in dreams from JC Ritchie

This is a lesson.

It’s a lesson in chasing your dream. It’s a lesson that the dream is the easy part. How badly you want it though, that’s where it gets so much harder.

It’s a lesson a teenage boy can teach you, as he lives in the garage of his golf coach, attending his sixth high school, and while trying to shut out all the voices telling him that his dream to become a professional golfer is a silly dream.

It won’t happen, they told Juan Carlo (JC) Ritchie.

And yet a man who was named after the Formula 1 racing driver Giancarlo Fisichella (he doesn’t know how his dad came up with the different version of his name), had no amateur golf career to speak of, and who midway through high school discovered his eyesight was bad enough that he couldn’t see a cricket ball being bowled at him, has played in a US Open and a World Golf Championship event, has won seven times on the Sunshine Tour, and joined some of the greats of South African golf to have won the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

Ahead of his appearance in this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club, the blue eyes and warm smile of JC Ritchie give no indication whatsoever of the deep well of guts and character under the surface.

“Sometimes it’s tough chasing your dream because there are lots of influences and important people in your life you need to go against. Sometimes you have to swim upstream, and you upset a lot of people. At the end of the day, when things work out, they all understand. But it’s tricky. It’s not easy getting to the top of any sport in the world. Some difficult decisions will need to be made at some point in your career.

“When I was younger I always felt like there were a lot of critics. People who said it was a silly dream and it wouldn’t work out. I was a decent junior golfer, but I was nothing but an average amateur. I didn’t get picked for any big amateur teams. I didn’t really achieve anything in amateur golf. I didn’t really have much going for me to tell myself that I’m good enough to play on Tour. At the start of my career there was a lot of grinding to prove people wrong. After my second win I felt I’d proved my point, and now it’s about chasing my dream the way I want it and not worry about proving people wrong.”

Somewhere in between the time before he could even walk, when he remembers watching his father hit golf balls on the driving range, to that critical point after high school when he had to make a life-changing choice, Ritchie has never doubted his ability to play professional golf at the highest level. And be good at it.

“Golf has been a part of me since I was young. I’d watch my dad hitting golf balls on the driving range, and at all the holiday spots we went to I’d always go with when my dad played golf and watch him. My dad was a pretty good golfer. Slowly but surely the game started biting me and I just found a love for the game.

“I played rugby in primary school, and then I realised I wanted to take golf a bit more seriously and I felt I needed to look after my body more. That didn’t go down well in my family, with the Afrikaans rugby culture. I also loved playing cricket. I just couldn’t bat because my eyesight was pretty bad. I only realised that halfway through high school. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see the cricket ball, and then I got contact lenses halfway through high school. I was a brilliant bowler though.

“But I think my dad always wanted me to become a golfer. He was pretty good and he wanted to become a professional, but had a bad motorbike accident and that stopped his dream. I then took over the dream and made it a reality.”

That is a very brief highlights version of a dream that was years in the making and took a whole lot more sweat and tears than many people realise. And it required a teenager to make the kind of decisions most adults would shy away from.

“I went to a few high schools. I did two months in Standerton High School, then moved to Pretoria Boys High and finished Grade 8 and 9 there. Then in Grade 10 Retief Goosen opened up a sports academy and I did Grade 10 there. Then the school closed, and I ended up moving to Southdowns College and finished Grade 10 there. Halfway through Grade 11 I moved back to Standerton and lived with my dad. But then he had to move down to Richards Bay for work, and I didn’t have place to stay. Then I came back to Pretoria and spent Matric and the year after Matric living with my golf coach, Graeme Francis. He converted his double garage for me and built me a room. My parents didn’t have the money to send me to boarding school, so he made a plan for me. I lived with him for two years. He looked after me like his own child. There were so many small things that got me to where I am today.”

After high school, Ritchie had to decide whether to go and study or continue pursuing his dream.

“There wasn’t enough money to do both. I made the decision after school to not play amateur golf and put all my eggs in one basket and turn professional. I took all the finances I had – every cent – and played the IGT Tour for a year and managed to get my card. It took every cent I had, every ounce of energy and sleep to make it. Then one of my dad’s good friends gave me a sponsorship and funded my career for 10 years. I don’t have words to describe how grateful I am for that support from him.”

After turning professional in 2014, Ritchie made his breakthrough in 2017 and won his first Sunshine Tour event – the Zimbabwe Open. He won again in 2018, three times in 2019 and twice in 2020. He also won the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit for the 2019-20 season.

And it’s all convinced Ritchie of a few truths about dreams, and what it takes to achieve them.

“There’s more than one way to do things around here. Even once I got my card, it took three years for me to win my first tournament. That’s the learning process. I think a lot of young golfers want to push too hard and want it too quickly. Some of the special kids around will win quickly and they will go far, but for the rest of us it’s a grind. The harder you work, the more you’re able to accept it takes time.

“I see a lot of brilliant young amateurs turn pro and come out on the Sunshine Tour and struggle. I think there is a lot of pressure on them, and they try and force it and make everything happen too quickly. But this is a process. There is a lot of learning that needs to happen out here. The faster you realise that it’s a process and give yourself five years instead of one year to do something, that’s when you find progress. And failure will always be the best way to learn.”

Even now, well established on the Sunshine Tour and now looking to take the next step on the European Challenge Tour this year, Ritchie keeps learning.

“I felt like my game was starting to move to a new level towards the end of the 2019 season, and then through lockdown something happened. I spent the entire 2020 just grinding and trying to find my game again, and to teach myself how to score and shoot under par again. Somehow, something happened in lockdown and I just lost my game. Last year was a big struggle and a big learning curve for me. I’m just happy I’ve worked through that and that my game now is close to where it needs to be again.

“I was going to play a full season on the Challenge Tour last year but Covid had other ideas. It gave me a year of grinding and learning and sweat and tears, and now it feels like a fresh start again and I’ve got the opportunity to run with some momentum into the new year. Of course my expectations are high, but I know I’m playing golf courses I’ve never seen before and traveling to countries I’ve never been to before. So there’s a lot to learn. I’ll accept whatever the game gives me.”

Ritchie speaks of the game of golf with a kind of realism that is often missed in the romance and glory of what some perceive to be the life of a professional golfer.

His talk of dreams is never devoid of the hard work and sacrifice that accompanies them. Even when he speaks about his inherent love of the game, it’s a love he knows comes paired with plenty of heartache.

“This game can make you tear your hair out the one day and make you feel on top of the world the next. But I suppose what keeps driving me is all those dreams as a youngster. It’s those dreams that make me want to tee it up every day and keep working. It’s a combination of a lot of years of dreaming and goals that I’ve set.

“It doesn’t get easier. No matter how many times you win, no matter how well or badly you think you’re playing, it never gets easier. It’s always difficult. There’s always a grind, and getting over that is the key to eventually having success. Fighting through the struggles. It’s a never-ending rollercoaster. Every week is pretty much a restart. You never really know what you’re going to get at the end of the week. But the harder you work when you are younger, the longer your peaks will be when you get older.”

Perhaps this explains why Ritchie’s favourite Major is the US Open, purely because it’s just so hard.

“I remember watching Tiger Woods win the US Open by so many shots all the time, and often he was the only golfer in the field under par. I always felt like that was the toughest tournament in golf, and if you could win there you could win anywhere. I played in the US Open in 2020 and at Winged Foot, one of the most difficult courses in America. It was a bit of a shock to the system to see what I’m preparing myself for. That was my first Major, and being the US Open and at one of the toughest venues was quite special.”

Again, Ritchie’s choice of words about his US Open experience is key – “what I’m preparing myself for”. In his mind, you haven’t arrived when you play in your first Major. You’re just starting to learn, at a new level of the game. It’s his process, and much like when he was a teenager, it’s one he prefers to work through on his own.

“I don’t like to get too influenced by what’s going on around me. I try and do my own thing in my own time. Sometimes you need someone to grab you by the neck and pull you in a direction. But most of the time I like doing things my own way, and doing so quietly.”

And that boy who dreamed his biggest dream in the garage of his golf coach is quietly going about making it happen. Every single day. – Michael Vlismas


Photo Credit: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour


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Stone takes playoff victory in Limpopo Championship

Stone takes playoff victory in Limpopo Championship

The night before the final round of the Limpopo Championship, Brandon Stone sat on a deck with a glass of Amarula in hand and watched a magnificent African sunset over the bushveld. Life was good. A day, and 19 holes later, it got even better for him.

Stone birdied the first extra hole to win a four-man playoff for this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament at Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate on Sunday.

It was the fifth victory of his professional career. But more significantly, it was his first Challenge Tour victory, his first playoff victory, and a much-needed win amidst a frustrating and uncertain time of Covid-19 interrupted schedules and global travel restrictions.

“I’m very happy to have this trophy in my hands. Every victory is special, and to win at home even more so. I haven’t won in a few years. I’m a very proud boy today,” said Stone.

Stone made the perfect start in Sunday’s final round, and with two birdies and an eagle on the front nine he turned at 10 under par for the tournament and with a two-stroke lead. But three bogeys and a solitary birdie in five holes from the turn opened the door for the rest of the field. With the closing holes to come, Stone was suddenly in a four-way tie for the lead on eight under with Hennie du Plessis, Oliver Bekker and Daniel van Tonder.

That’s how regulation play ended, sending them all back to the par-five 18th for the playoff. And then Stone played the hole to perfection as he won with a birdie to the pars of the rest.

“Let’s just say that these 19 holes of golf kind of summed up professional golf,” he said. “I felt invincible on the front nine. I never hit a bad shot and found myself 10 under for the tournament and the lead. Before I wiped the dust out of my eyes I was back in a share of the lead and then standing on the 18th needing birdie to win.

“I played the 18th perfectly. I hit a perfect two iron followed by a great three wood and then a nice little up and down.”

Stone now travels to Cape Town for the second of these three Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned events, the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open which tees off at the Royal Cape Golf Club this Thursday.

“I’m just really looking forward to getting to Cape Town and to get going on Thursday again,” he said. – Michael Vlismas


Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Daniel digs deep to keep his Limpopo lead

24th April 2021

Daniel digs deep to keep his Limpopo lead

On the toughest day yet at Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate, Daniel van Tonder signed for a round of two-over-par 74 that was still good enough to earn him a two-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s final round of the Limpopo Championship.

That battling third-round 74 puts him on eight under par for the tournament after a day of strong winds which blew straight into the golfers for most of the holes on this Annika Sorenstam-designed golf course.

“It was a battle. The wind was quite strong. I’d say it was either a two- or three-club wind. The greens were also tough to read. Some were firm and fast and others were slow. I managed to shoot two over par, which sounds bad, but I’m still leading by two,” said Van Tonder.

But there were some who were able to take advantage.

Brandon Stone posted a 69 that puts him on six under, where he is one of four players who are Van Tonder’s nearest challengers going into the final round.

“For the last couple of days there’s been no breeze, and I felt like something was missing. When we play on the European Tour we’ve also got a two- or three-club wind blowing. So when I saw the flags were fluttering this morning I knew it could be a potentially good moving day in my favour,” said Stone.

Germany’s Marcel Siem also had a good day with his 68 to join Stone on six under. Oliver Bekker carded a 72 to add his name on six under, and Norway’s Kristian Johannessen battled his way to a 74 to complete the chasing quartet.

But Van Tonder did enough in the difficult conditions to give the rest of the field a concern that his good form of late is possibly not going to end anytime soon. And he once again paid tribute to his wife and caddie Abi for the role she played in Saturday’s 74.

“If it wasn’t for Abi with her reading of the wind and club selection it would’ve been worse. She plays a big role in keeping me calm by making me think about different things to take my mind of golf during the round. But her reading of the wind direction is very good. There were times out there when I was a bit confused, but she was really on the ball with that.”

It was the first time this week that Van Tonder’s game has come under pressure, and he’ll be pleased to have come through that still at the top of the leaderboard.

“I like the pressure. In the final round, I’ll do what I always do. I try and just play the golf course.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Van Tonder leads into weekend of Limpopo Championship

23rd April 2021

Van Tonder leads into weekend of Limpopo Championship

It was another calm stroll in the bushveld for Daniel van Tonder on Friday as he maintained his place at the top of the leaderboard through two rounds of the Limpopo Championship at the Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate.

Van Tonder signed for a bogey-free 68 to climb to 10 under par thorugh 36 holes of this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned event.

His nearest challenger is Norway’s Kristian Johannessen on eight under par but with two holes of his second round still to complete as darkness once again caught the field and forced the round to be carried over.

But whatever is going on behind him hardly seems to trouble Van Tonder at the moment, whose overall game is as smooth as one of the golden sunsets out here.

“It went well again,” he said of Friday’s second round. “The wind was blowing a bit out there and it’s stronger than you think, so that was a bit tough in the afternoon. Most of the holes were into the wind. But if I missed a shot, then it was in the right places and I was able to chip it close. I made four birdies and 14 pars so I’m happy,” he said.

Van Tonder has made an art form of keeping his approach as simple as possible, and he plans to continue doing so over the weekend.

“I have two days to go and will just take it hole by hole and enjoy it. As far as I’m concerned it’s 18 holes on Saturday again, and then on Sunday the same thing. I just keep it as simple as possible.”

Johannessen could still have a say on Van Tonder’s lead as he completes his second round on Saturday morning.

Tristen Strydom, MJ Viljoen, Jaco Prinsloo and Jake Roos are all on seven under. Of that quartet, Strydom, Viljoen and Prinsloo all signed for second rounds of 69, while Roos posted a 68.

Strydom in particular is looking forward to the challenge of the next 36 holes.

“I’ve made a lot of good changes with my swing, body and mindset. I’m just having fun and not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m just going to keep enjoying myself, play good golf and control what I can,” he said. – Michael Vlismas


Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Confident Van Tonder sets pace in Limpopo Championship

22nd April 2021

Confident Van Tonder sets pace in Limpopo Championship

The power of a European Tour victory is seen not only in the confidence of Daniel van Tonder’s play, which shone through in his first-round 66 for the clubhouse lead in the Limpopo Championship at Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate on Thursday, but also in his words.

Van Tonder, who is still enjoying the momentum of his breakthrough European Tour win in the Kenya Savannah Classic in March, holds a one-stroke lead over fellow South African Neil Schietekat and Denmark’s Niklas Moller after an incomplete first round of a Limpopo Championship co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour. Darkness meant the round will have to be completed on Friday morning before the start of the second round.

But with a European Tour card now in his pocket, Van Tonder’s words resonate beyond just this week and a desire to win here. They now also include talk of world rankings and Majors.

“Kenya definitely changed a few things for me,” he says while standing in the shade of a sprawling maroela tree.

“I’m currently waiting for my UK Visa to come through, then after that it’s off to play in the PGA Championship and then full European Tour from there.”

For the next three weeks in South Africa, when he’ll also play in next week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and the following week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am, Van Tonder is also hoping to improve on his current world ranking of 80th.

“Playing these three events brings with it world ranking points, and I want to try and get into the top 60 in the world by the end of these three tournaments and try and make it into the US Open. That’s the plan.”

It’s a vastly different approach to when Van Tonder last won a tournament at Euphoria, in the 2014 Vodacom Origins of Golf, and it shows how far he has come.

“Before a win like that, you’re playing week to week for the money to keep on living. But when you win on the European Tour, then you don’t care so much about the money anymore and you start caring about tournaments. It’s all about confidence.”

And perhaps the biggest indication of just how much his life has changed is where he now calls home.

“I used to live in Fourways, and now I’ve moved to Serengeti Estates where I’m an ambassador for them. I’m very grateful to all of my sponsors who’ve supported me to get to this point in my career.”

Van Tonder is also well aware of the pitfalls that come with success, and plans to avoid those as much as he plans to avoid errant tee shots at Euphoria this week.

“The trick is to keep on practising. The mistake is to think you’ve made it and now you don’t need to practice anymore. You need to keep putting in the hard work.”

Behind Van Tonder are two particular fellow Sunshine Tour professionals who will certainly keep him focused for the remaining three rounds.

Schietekat has come close enough to a win in recent Sunshine Tour events to make him even more hungry for success. “If I get the putter going there’s definitely a low one out there,” he said.

And Jaco Prinsloo is just two shots off the lead and looking to turn the form of his two Sunshine Tour victories in March into a win on the European Challenge Tour and the next step in his own career. – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Wilco chasing the win in Limpopo Championship

21st April 2021

Wilco chasing the win in Limpopo Championship

Winning is the only goal in the mind of Wilco Nienaber at the moment, and this week’s Limpopo Championship at the Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate seems as good a place as any to make that a reality, and in a tournament he finished second in last year.

“Winning is the thing I want. Whatever I need to do to get myself in that position to win is what I need to do, and do so more often,” Nienaber said ahead of Thursday’s first round of the R3 million Limpopo Championship, which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour.

Nienaber, who finished second in this event last year, is part of a strong field gathered for what is the first of three weeks of European Challenge Tour events being played on the Sunshine Tour.

The global travel restrictions and general uncertainty from country to country has made planning a playing schedule extremely difficult. So these next three weeks offer a golden opportunity of competitive stability.

“Traveling is tough at the moment. That’s the reason I didn’t go to Austria and Spain for the European Tour events there. You can’t really plan anything at the moment. Countries change their restrictions almost weekly, so that makes it tough to know where you’re going to play two weeks from now. But I love playing at home on the Sunshine Tour. I know the golf courses we’ll be playing, and it’s going to be good to get the confidence up and get on a bit of a roll for the European Tour after this,” said Nienaber.

His confidence will certainly be high for this week on a golf course where he came close to winning last year, eventually finishing two shots behind the champion JC Ritchie.

“I like the golf course. It has some very long par threes, and the par fives have some good scoring opportunities if you hit a good tee shot.”

After coming close in this tournament and then finishing second in the Joburg Open last year, Nienaber is certainly eager to get a win under his belt.

But he’ll be up against a field just as eager for competitive action, with fellow competitor Brandon Stone describing this as a week when there will be, “A lot of hungry wolves out there eager to compete”. – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour