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Sunshine Tour’s De Jager qualifies for his first Major

30th June 2021

Sunshine Tour’s De Jager qualifies for his first Major

Louis de Jager has secured himself a place in his first Major after successfully qualifying for the 149th Open at Royal St George’s.

The Sunshine Tour campaigner was one of 12 golfers from a field of 288 who qualified at various venues in England.

De Jager posted rounds of 67 and 70 at West Lancashire to finish second in his Final Qualifying tournament and thereby book his spot for the 11-18 July showpiece.

“This is amazing. It’s going to be my first Major and I don’t think there could be a better one to start off with. I know Ben Curtis won at Royal St George’s in his first time playing The Open so I think that is a good omen,” said De Jager.

“I am not very familiar with the course, so I will do some research and watch some YouTube videos of Darren Clarke’s win.

“I actually made a 9 on the 11th in the second round. I spoke to myself and said I need to show a little bit of character. I had come so far and had been playing some good golf today. I birdied two of the last three including the last hole so I was quite pleased to be finished with a little breathing space.”

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Higgo ready for Olympic challenge 1

24th June 2021

Higgo ready for Olympic challenge

In what has already been a year of many firsts for Garrick Higgo, the Sunshine Tour’s latest international star is now looking forward to yet another – a debut at the Olympic Games.

Higgo will partner Christiaan Bezuidenhout as South Africa’s men’s Olympic golf team at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

It is a proud moment for the young star, who has celebrated playing in Majors for the first time, and winning his first PGA Tour event.

“It will be awesome. Anytime I can represent South Africa is a massive honour. And it will be awesome playing with Christiaan. I know both him and his caddie very well,” Higgo said as he prepared to play in his first tournament as a PGA Tour member in this week’s Travelers Championship.

Before Tokyo, Higgo plans to soak up every bit of the experience of being a PGA Tour member.

“It’s pretty cool. I watched all these events as a kid. I can’t wait to play every event on the PGA Tour now. I don’t need any convincing. I’ve noticed that the depth on the PGA Tour is unreal. Anyone can win.”

But one of the strengths of Higgo’s game, and what has underpinned his rapid rise, is an ability to not become overwhelmed by the challenge he faces in any given week on Tour.

“I always go into a week wanting to play my game, and to just see what happens. I treat each event the same. I don’t make it a bigger thing and just go about my business.”

Higgo also paid tribute to the role of Gary Player in his life and career.

“I met Gary when I was about eight or nine. They have a holiday home in Plettenberg Bay where I grew up. I used to play and practice there, and when he was there over the December holidays I’d play nine holes with him. His mom died when he was nine, the age I was when my dad passed away. So we have that connection. It’s real and amazing. Before all the good things happened to me, we still had that connection, and would’ve had it even if all these good things didn’t happen.

“We’ve always stayed in touch. He calls me a lot and he’s been a big part of why I’ve won a lot and the mental aspect of the game.”

And as one of the front-line players of a younger generation of Sunshine Tour stars now making waves internationally, Higgo says he’s looking forward to being joined on the PGA Tour by more South Africans.

“I’d love to have all of them out here every week. I can’t wait for that. Hopefully it happens soon. When you look at the guys on the Sunshine Tour, their games are definitely good enough. It would be awesome to have more of them out here.” – Michael Vlismas

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21st June 2021

Louis determined to keep pushing for more Major glory

Louis Oosthuizen insisted he had no regrets as he finished second in a Major Championship for the sixth time at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The South African secured his place in the annals of the golfing greats with his victory at the 2010 Open Championship but since then he has endured a string of near misses in golf’s biggest four events, losing two play-offs and finishing second twice in as many months this year.

On Sunday at Torrey Pines Golf Course, he held a one shot lead on the back nine but Jon Rahm birdied the 17th and 18th in spectacular style to leapfrog the 38-year-old and leave him needing some magic of his own.

Oosthuizen found a hazard off the tee at the 17th for a bogey and was forced to lay up on the par five last where he needed an eagle, eventually carding a birdie to finish a single shot behind Rahm.

“I’m second again,” he said. “No, look, it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. I’m playing good golf but winning a Major Championship is not just going to happen. You need to go out and play good golf. I played good today but I didn’t play good enough.

“I definitely left a few putts or shots out there.

“I took the tee shot on at 17 and I knew it was a crucial hole for me to take it on and give myself a birdie opportunity. I didn’t pull it off but standing on that tee again, I’ll probably do the same thing, taking a driver and taking the shot on.

“I feel like I had my shots, I went for it, and that’s what you have to do to win Majors. Sometimes it goes your way and other times it doesn’t.

“I played good, just fell a little short again. It was Jon played a great round of golf, four under today on that golf course is a really good score.” – European Tour

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Oosthuizen chasing US Open glory

20th June 2021

Oosthuizen chasing US Open glory

Louis Oosthuizen made a spectacular closing eagle at Torrey Pines Golf Club to take a share of the lead heading into the final round of the 2021 U.S. Open Championship.

The South African was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year in 2010 and since then has five second place finishes in Major Championships, including at this event in 2015 and at last month’s US PGA Championship.

He will now have another chance to become a multiple Major Champion after a 70 moved him to five under alongside American Russell Henley and Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes.

There was then an intimidating pair at three under in the shape of four time Major winner Rory McIlroy and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, with Spaniard Jon Rahm and home duo Scottie Scheffler and Matthew Wolff at two under.

A victory for Oosthuizen would be his tenth on the European Tour but incredibly his first on American soil on any circuit, and would take him to the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.

“It would mean everything in the world,” he said. “It’s what we play the game for and why we stand on the range hitting balls, to win Majors. I feel I have the game to win another one so I need to go out and play well tomorrow.

“There’s a lot of great players up there that’s got a chance of winning this and I just need to go out and play as good as I can.”

The 38-year-old holed from 11 feet on the fifth but made bogeys on the first and seventh as he turned in 36.

He dropped further shots on the tenth and 14th but made a two putt birdie on the 13th and holed a 30 footer on the 16th to keep in touch before a 50 foot putt on the last green brought an eagle and catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard.

Co overnight leader Henley made a flying start with an approach to 13 feet on the first but gave the shot straight back on the next after a poor tee shot.

He put his second to seven feet on the fourth to lead alone but he dropped a shot on the sixth after getting into some bunker trouble.

The 32-year-old did manage to get up and down from the sand on the par five ninth to lead by two at the turn but once again he quickly gave back any ground gained, dropping a shot at the tenth after finding a bunker off the tee, and he was just two clear of clubhouse leader McIlroy.

A booming drive left the Northern Irishman with just a flick into the second but that was his only birdie of the front nine before a brilliant run from the tenth.

He put his approach to five feet on the tenth, pitched in on the 12th and then two putted the next after hitting the pin with his second for another birdie.

He did well to drop a single shot on the 15th after sending his tee shot a long way left and taking a drop, but recovered with a two putt gain on the par five last.

Henley holed a bunker shot on the 11th to briefly see the lead extended to three but Hughes quickly trimmed it back.

He turned in 36 as he almost holed a bunker shot on the fifth but made bogeys on the fourth and ninth.

A tee shot to six feet on the 11th was followed by a spectacular 60 foot putt for eagle on the 13th and when Henley failed to get up and down from the sand on the 15th, the gap was back to one.

Hughes then put his bunker shot to five feet on the 18th to join the lead, where he would soon have company from the fast finishing Oosthuizen.

DeChambeau was bogey free as he made gains on the first, sixth and 13th in a 68 to match the score of Hughes, while Henley carded a 71.

Rahm made a double, a bogey and two birdies in a 72 to sit a shot ahead of World Number One Dustin Johnson, three more Americans in Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Streelman, and South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout. – European Tour.

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Louis looking good into weekend of US Open

19th June 2021

Louis looking good into weekend of US Open

Louis Oosthuizen is certain he knows what he needs to do to claim a second Major Championship after putting himself within one shot of the lead heading into the weekend at the 2021 U.S. Open Championship.

The South African was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year in 2010 and since then has five second placed finishes in golf’s four biggest events, including at this event in 2015 and at last month’s US PGA Championship.

In round two at Torrey Pines Golf Club, he dropped shots on the sixth and 11th but hit back with a 30 footer on the 14th and made the most of the par five last in a 71.

And the 38-year-old was keeping cool as he once again contested for the trophy at a Major.

“Just keep patient and calm and see if you can get yourself within striking range with nine holes to go on Sunday and then take it from there,” he said.

“The shots I hit in on a bunch of holes with wedges and nine and sand wedge on 17 is holes where it was accessible pins where I can actually give myself a 10, 15 foot putt for birdie and I was fighting to make par.

“So I take a lot out of that, and with the U.S. Open especially, if you’re out of position, you need to just minimise the score, and I did that pretty good today.” – European Tour

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Oosthuizen in the hunt at US Open

18th June 2021

Oosthuizen in the hunt at US Open

Louis Oosthuizen moved into a share of the lead alongside clubhouse pacesetter Russell Henley as darkness saw play suspended on day one of the 2021 US Open Championship.

A 90-minute fog delay at the start of the day meant that some players had as many as six holes to complete on Friday morning but that was no problem for home favourite Henley, who carded a 67 from the fourth group of the day to get to four under at Torrey Pines Golf Club.

Oosthuizen then joined him at that mark and was left with a 35-foot putt on his penultimate hole to take the solo lead when the hooter sounded, with a host of European Tour members in the chasing pack.

Francesco Molinari – the 2018 Open Champion – was at three under alongside Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, with another Spaniard in Jon Rahm two off the lead.

Masters Tournament Champion Hideki Matsuyama, 2017 and 2018 winner of this event Brooks Koepka and Americans Hayden Buckley and Xander Schauffele were also at two under.

Colombian Sebastian Munoz was also two under through 14, with 11 players three shots off the lead in the clubhouse including four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy.

Oosthuizen already has a Major to his name at the 2010 Open Championship but has finished second five times in golf’s four biggest events, including this one in 2015.

The fifth of those runner up finishes came at last month’s US PGA Championship and the South African was enjoying the test of Torrey Pines.

“I just enjoy playing really tough golf courses,” he said. “I think somehow I focus a little bit better when I play those courses, knowing that the margin for error is really small.

“Especially around this place, you’ve got to drive it well, you’ve got to start it in the fairway, and you’re going to have trouble if you’re missing fairways around this golf course and I’ve really been driving it good lately.”

The 38-year-old bogeyed the 11th but holed a 20 footer on the 12th and then made a hat-trick of gains from the 16th with two more long putts and a two putt on the par five 18th.

He holed an 11-footer on the fifth to join the lead and was left with another lengthy putt at the par five ninth to come when darkness fell. – European Tour


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Article One 3

14th June 2021

PGA Tour glory for Garrick

Sunshine Tour rising star Garrick Higgo had just won the Palmetto Championship at Congaree and was being interviewed by CBS’s Jim Nantz on the 18th green. His mom, Susan, who had flown in Thursday, was FaceTiming relatives back home in South Africa.

Everything was moving so fast, and then Nantz announced to the crowd that by winning – by one over a six-some of players that included 54-hole leader Chesson Hadley (75) – Higgo, 22, had just secured PGA TOUR membership through the end of the 2023 season.

Oh, and a spot in the Masters Tournament next year, too. Susan gasped, then laughed.

For Higgo, a lefthander with a winning smile who had won twice in his last three starts on the European Tour, life had just changed dramatically.

“I’m just proud of the way I hung in there,” he said in his virtual press conference after posing with the trophy on the 18th green. “It was tough all the way from the start. Definitely didn’t have my A game in terms of off the tee, but I like that sometimes. I like not having to play perfect golf. I enjoy scrambling and making a couple putts, which I did, which was awesome.”

None was bigger than his par save from 9 1/2 feet after driving into the trees on 17.

Gary Player, who had told him before the round not to pay too much attention to what everyone else was doing, called to congratulate him after the press conference was over.

Player knew exactly the winding road Higgo had taken to get here. When he was 9, he and his two siblings and their parents were in a car accident that took the life of their father, Guillermo. Player, who had lost his mom when he was that age, wrote a letter and began to take Higgo under his wing.

Higgo had learned the game from his dad from the age of 2. They played in Pecanwood, in the North West Province of South Africa, less than an hour from their home in Johannesburg. Garrick was the golfing sibling, and his love of the game brought him closer to his father.

“He was a very good cricketer,” he said of Guillermo. “He was 6’10” I think, so he was really, really big. My uncle is like 6’11” so, yeah, we’re a big family. I’m not that big. My brother is very big, though. … My earliest memories would just be, when I was really, really little, I would just go with him. I just really loved golf. I loved going with him. It was kind of our thing.”

The family recovered, and all are doing well. Susan is an engineer. Older brother Michael and younger sister Calis are both in school back home. She’s studying fashion, he business. Higgo, who says they all support one another in their endeavors, kept playing golf after the accident, and his game improved.

He played for the International Team in the 2017 Junior Presidents Cup, and captain Trevor Immelman was impressed. “He just had a calmness about him that exceeded his age,” he told recently. (Higgo now seems likely to be on Immelman’s 2022 Presidents Cup Team at Quail Hollow.)

Still, Higgo has freely admitted he was never the best amateur. There were other players, even others in South Africa, like the long-hitting Wilco Nienaber, who could beat him on any given day. He went to America for college – the yardage book in his back pocket still says UNLV – but stayed only two semesters before turning pro in his sophomore year.

His equanimity and cheerful nature, plus hard work, saw him through the transition.

“You can’t tell if he’s shooting the lights out or playing poorly,” said his caddie, Nick Cavendish-Pell. “He’s just very calm out there. Very levelheaded guy.”

He won the Tour Championship on the Sunshine Tour. He won twice on the European Tour, both tournaments on Spain’s Canary Islands, then ventured to America in advance of the PGA Championship. His agents, who live at Sea Island, set him up in a rental house there and introduced him to TOUR players like Harris English, Zach Johnson and Keith Mitchell.

“A bunch of good guys,” Higgo said.

He didn’t have far to drive to get to the PGA at Kiawah, where he finished T64. He went back to Sea Island to keep practicing, and kept his head down as he played from behind all week at Congaree.

And now this – changing everything.

“I mean, my dream’s always been to play on the PGA TOUR permanently,” Higgo said to the question of where he’ll play, “so at the moment, I’ll focus on that, see if I can keep going.”

The interview with Nantz, the Teams talk with the writers, and the phone call from Player were all over, and Higgo sped off to catch the TOUR’s 8:30 p.m. charter flight to California.

The 121st U.S. Open, his third TOUR start and second major, awaits. – PGA Tour

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The Score Alex Haindl 1

10th June 2021

The Score Alex Haindl

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s new Player Blog.

Alex Haindl recently claimed his fourth Sunshine Tour title when he won the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City on the demanding Gary Player Country Club course.

I was six years old when I made the decision that golf is all I want to do with my life. What do you really know when you’re six? But my dad had started playing golf when I was four years old, and I started playing with him. Golf has really been the only thing I was ever going to do. I’d love to be an F1 driver, but I don’t think that will work out for me.

I didn’t play much amateur golf. My parents got divorced and I moved with my dad to Bloemfontein. We never really had much money. My dad worked really hard, and to play the top amateur events was expensive. I was 17 years old when I went to the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School for the first time. Basically, my dad and I decided that whether it was playing amateur events or pro events it was going to cost money, so you might as well be making a bit of money doing it. I missed my card the first time, so that year I did a bit of teaching and I worked in bars and as a waiter just to fund life basically, and then have an opportunity to play. I then got my tour card the next year.

Tour life is very expensive when you’re just starting out. Although these days I see a lot of youngsters who seem to find sponsors very easily, and who have the backing. You see them earning R50 000 from 25 tournaments, but next year they’re back. If you think what a season can cost in expenses, then I don’t know how they’re doing it.

I turned pro in 2000. In 2006, my dad took out a bank loan for me so I could play a fuller season. So I played more and played a bit better, and I won my first Sunshine Tour event in the Suncoast Classic at Durban Country Club. That changed things because then I was exempt and could play more. From there on it got a bit easier.

My dad did everything he could for me and my career, and still does. He introduced me to the game and helped me all the way. It’s vital having somebody like that. In the last 20 years I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached the point where I’ve said, ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough of this’. To have somebody like my dad, and my wife, who keep pushing you on is so important. Those are the people that keep you in this game. Shaun Pollock (former South African cricket captain) is also a great friend and mentor for me. We chat quite a lot and he’s really helped me with trying to keep my mind in the right place, especially when I’ve been through some tough times.

The issues with my back have been a bit of a disaster. It started in 2010 when I was playing a bit in Europe. At first my back would give up on me every two months. Then it became every six weeks, and then every four weeks. I had weeks where I would travel from one tournament to the next and be in bed until the first round because of the pain. I couldn’t play practice rounds, which is not ideal. In 2015 I just couldn’t go on. I couldn’t walk because of the nerve pain. So I had surgery. It went allright at first. But the problem is you’re out of the game for seven or eight months. Then when you come back, the big thing is that mentally you don’t trust you can move again because your brain is fearful of the pain. So that takes a while to overcome. It took me a year before I could start playing half decent again. In 2018 I had a good year and thought here’s a chance at bigger things again. And then at the end of the year my back gave in again. I had to have surgery again, and I’ve been on the comeback since. My chiropractor Sammy Pearson has been an incredible help. And my trainer Herman Liebenberg of SportsFit Gym works with me about four to five times a week on strengthening exercises. I’ve also started working with Grant Veenstra as my coach. And Natasha Fichardt helps me as my sports psychologist. It’s all part of that thing that drives you to constantly want to improve. I like trying to improve all the time. It’s always been that for me. Sure, I enjoy my downtime of watching F1 and UFC, listening to music and spending time with my family. But I can’t sit around and do nothing for too long.

This most recent win means a lot because it’s basically confirmation that I can play again. After all of the issues I’ve had, it’s kind of confirmation that things are back to where they should be. Winning is so hard because it’s either going to be your week or not. I’ve played with so many guys who’ve won and it’s just a matter of it being their week. I’ve seen guys get the weirdest bounces and it’s unbelievable the things that happen to guys who win. I really believe that 99% of the time it just comes down to whether it’s your week or not. You have to do so many things right to win, and you can let it slip so easily. With my recent win, I felt like I handled it so well and was able to change my approach to the last three holes and par my way in instead of pushing too hard. It’s hard to stay disciplined enough to change your strategy when you need to.

I have a wife and two girls at home. The older they get the harder it becomes to leave home because they understand you’re going to be away for four to six weeks. Sometimes it can feel like you’re leading two lives, because when you’re at a tournament you’re just in that zone and doing your own thing.

The Score Alex Haindl

I’ve always been open to people asking me for advice and I do enjoy it. I enjoy coaching and working with better players and youngsters. My focus is more on teaching people how to play than the technical aspects of game. You can teach somebody the perfect way to swing a club, but when you get on Tour and in the heat of competition, there are so many factors to consider such as learning to play off different grasses, or in different temperatures and at different altitudes. On Tour you really need to understand your own tendencies, especially under pressure. That’s what we mean when we talk about controlling your misses. You need to know what your tendencies are and if it goes wrong on a shot, where will it go wrong and how can you control that as much as possible.

Winning four times on the Sunshine Tour is great. But I think a moment that stands out most for me in my career is the putt I made to get my European Tour card in 2011. I had to make a par on the last to get it, and I holed a huge putt. That next season playing in Europe is the most I’ve ever enjoyed a season. It was tough and I had back pain, but that was the season I enjoyed most. It was nice just being out there and playing for better money and on great courses. It was a hell of an experience playing Royal Portrush and so on. That’s what motivates me to keep improving. To get back there, and to climb the world rankings again.

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Haindl hangs on to win SunBet Challenge

4th June 2021

Haindl hangs on to win SunBet Challenge

Alex Haindl claimed his fourth victory on the Sunshine Tour when he won the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City at the Gary Player Country Club on Friday.

Haindl took a two-stroke lead into the final round of a tournament he led from day one, and held on to win by a single stroke over Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya and Jaco Ahlers on seven under par, closing with a 73.

“I’m delighted. I kind of came into the week with a bit of a mission to at least have a top three finish. I’m very happy to have won, especially on a golf course like this one,” said Haindl.

But it took all of his resolve to do so. After a strong start where Haindl birdied three of his first four holes, the Bloemfontein golfer bogeyed the tough eighth hole and then hit it in the water on the par-five ninth on his way to a double bogey that handed Muthiya the lead.

“I had a great start, but to be honest I didn’t get too excited because I’ve played golf way too often to know that on a course like this one, somewhere something is going to happen,” said Haindl.

“On the ninth I laid up but I was in the semi-rough, and I don’t know if I had a mud ball or something but my third shot came out absolutely horrible and went straight into the water. It didn’t bother me that Madalitso was leading going into the back nine though, because again, I just know this game and this course.”

Muthiya birdied the 10th but then ran into trouble of his own with a double bogey and bogey in his next two holes that again opened the door for Haindl.

“I just tried to keep it solid on the back nine. It was playing tough and the pins were extremely tricky, so I just tried to keep things simple. Any win is nice, but a win on this golf course, which I’ve never really felt suits my game, makes it a lot more special.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Haindl hunting glory at Sun City

3rd June 2021

Haindl hunting glory at Sun City

Alex Haindl will take a two-stroke lead into Friday’s final round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City as he seeks to claim his first Sunshine Tour victory in three years.

Haindl signed for a second round of 69 at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday, dropping only one shot in his round and making a good birdie at the difficult par-four eighth hole as he climbed to eight under par overall.

“It’s the perfect place to be. Hopefully I can keep it up and come out on top,” he said.

His nearest challenger is Jaco Ahlers, who posted a 67 to see him climb to six under par. Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya is still in the hunt on five under par following a 69.

Haindl has been incredibly solid at the top of the leaderboard since the first round as he looks to finally overcome a long struggle with a back injury and add to his three Sunshine Tour titles to date.

“This was really a nice follow-up round to my opening round,” he said. “I tried to approach the golf course in the same way, but I actually felt like I hit it better today. I gave myself a lot of chances, but I left a few putts out there.”

The single bogey on his scorecard was another source of confidence for Haindl, who in 2018 had to undergo a spinal fusion to correct a previous surgery and which has him playing on a medical exemption this year.

“I’m happy that the work I’ve been putting in is coming together. It has been a while since my last win, and it’s good to be in contention again and playing better. Let’s be honest, when it’s going bad, this is the hardest game in the world. But when I was working on my game and practising at home, there were signs of improvement that give you confidence, even though there were times when I had a lot of pain and struggled to move.

“Only one bogey on this golf course is pleasing because limiting your mistakes here is key. But I’ve been doing a lot of things well for the past two days, and I’ve been putting the ball in the right places. That birdie on the eighth was a real bonus because I wasn’t taking all the chances that came my way, and then to make a 15-footer for birdie there was very pleasing.”

Behind him, Ahlers finds himself in contention going into a final round for his second tournament in succession. His 74 in the final round of the recent Dimension Data Pro-Am to relinquish his shot at that title will no doubt still rankle with him, and Friday’s final round offers the perfect chance to make amends. – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour