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Sunshine Tour launches rules official development drive

19th August 2021

Sunshine Tour launches rules official development drive

The Sunshine Tour has launched an exciting new initiative as part of its transformation drive and will be helping to develop golf rules officials that in turn can also strengthen the Tour’s base of officials working at tournaments around the country.

The Tour launched this new initiative at this week’s SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino at Wingate Park Country Club, where an aspiring rules official with a minimum Rules of Golf Level 2 qualification will shadow a Sunshine Tour rules official under tournament conditions and to gain experience.

Johannes Mnyandu, an employee with the Department of Public Works who also plays for the Gauteng North Golf Union’s Mid-Amateur Interprovincial team and is a member at Akasia Golf Club, will shadow Sunshine Tour Chief Referee, Reinard Kilian, at Wingate this week.

“The aim of this initiative is twofold, namely to help with the transformation of our industry as well as grow the base of part-time Sunshine Tour rules officials that we can call upon at our tournaments around the country. There is a strong base of part-time rules officials who currently work in golf administration or are very competent golfers, and we’d like to assist in upskilling them to a level where they can be an asset to the Sunshine Tour and our member professionals,” said Kilian.

Photo: Johannes Mnyandu (left) and Sunshine Tour Chief Referee Reinard Kilian at this week’s SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino at Wingate Park Country Club. Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour.

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Fisher Jnr lands the lead in SunBet Challenge at Wingate

18th August 2021

Fisher Jnr lands the lead in SunBet Challenge at Wingate

Trevor Fisher Jnr. was delighted to lead the first round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino after what he’s described as a “challenging” past two years of trying to rediscover his game.

Fisher Jnr. opened with a five-under-par 67 at Wingate Park Country Club on Wednesday and leads the field by a single stroke. Adilson da Silva, Benjamin Follett-Smith and Louis Albertse are his nearest challengers.

The course was tricky on the opening day of this Sunshine Tour event, with a few tough pin placements and a bit of wind to keep things even more interesting.

But Fisher Jnr. started his round in spectacular fashion and was four under par through his opening three holes after holing out with his second for an eagle at the first and then birdying the next two holes. He made a further three birdies and two bogeys for his opening 67.

“That was a dream start. I almost drove the green on the par-four first hole and chipped in there, and then made two great up and downs for birdie at the next two holes. So that was very nice,” he said.

Fisher Jnr. is a nine-time winner on the Sunshine Tour and also a European Tour champion after his victory in the 2015 Africa Open. But he’s struggled over the past two years to recreate that form.

“The last few years have been challenging. When I’m playing well, I feel like I can play against anyone in the world. But I started getting stuck with my swing and it’s been a challenging road to fix that. My technique has been wrong, so it’s hard to stay mentally strong on the golf course when you’re not hitting the shots you want. I feel like I’ve been doing that for the past two years.”

But he’s worked consistently at trying to remedy this, and Wednesday’s 67 was certainly a step in the right direction.

“I feel like I’m releasing better in my swing. I’m trying to stay patient. This is basically a game of consistency and patience. You have to keep working at it and working at understanding the game.

“It was nice to put it all together today. But this is a long-term process I’m busy with. I’m just going to keep trying to get better and better.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

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It is all coming together for Jaco Prinsloo

17th August 2021

It is all coming together for Jaco Prinsloo

Finding yourself is a common theme in the world at the moment. In the strangest way, Sunshine Tour professional Jaco Prinsloo’s search to develop a better version of himself actually took him back to a previous version of himself. And it’s translating into one of his best seasons on the Sunshine Tour.

Prinsloo heads into this week’s SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino at Wingate Park Country Club with a sense that a few things are coming together quite nicely in his career.

He won twice on the Sunshine Tour in March, has finished no worse than 22nd in his last nine tournaments, is ranked third on the Sunshine Tour Money List, and recently signed a deal with Openfield Marketing to represent him.

“I am aware of things looking like they’re moving in a direction,” he says on the driving range at Wingate as he prepares for Wednesday’s first round of this R1 million 54-hole tournament.

“But I’m just trying to keep my head down and keep working and become as good as I can be.”

It was actually this search to improve that led to Prinsloo making a significant change in his career. While working with his coach on changing his swing to what they believed was something more textbook, Prinsloo realised he’d lost his competitive advantage.

“I was working on getting into certain positions in my swing, and I felt like the one thing that made me a good golfer was taken away from me. I’ve always felt what made me good is not my swing but my ball sense. So, I went back to the old Jaco. I just focused on hitting the ball and playing more freely. I wasn’t going to try and swing like a robot.”

The ability to play more freely has also given Prinsloo a more free approach to thinking about his career, and he’s trying not to get too bogged down in the “What Ifs” of the current pandemic and just focus on what’s in front of him.

“You know, I’d love to be playing on the Challenge Tour now, but I didn’t have a visa in place. I’d also love to be planning for a European Tour Qualifying School at the end of the season, or an Asian Tour. But none of that is happening at the moment. Instead of seeing it as missed opportunities, I’m going to focus on my goals on the Sunshine Tour. If I keep playing like I am, those opportunities will come around again.”

Prinsloo joins a quality field at Wingate this week.

Ruan Korb is back to defend his title. Jean Hugo, Hennie Otto, Adilson da Silva, Keith Horne, Trevor Fisher Jnr., Jaco van Zyl, Thriston Lawrence, Jaco Ahlers, Jayden Schaper and Neil Schietekat are all in action in Pretoria.

But Prinsloo isn’t focused on them and is staying true to his desire of not looking too far ahead.

“I just want to go out there, see how few shots I can hit, and sign my scorecard.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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Vodacom supports Sunshine Tour caddies with donation

13th August 2021

Vodacom supports Sunshine Tour caddies with donation

Vodacom has once again thrown its full support behind South African professional golf with the announcement of a significant donation to permanent Sunshine Tour caddies to help alleviate the economic pressures they have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic and specifically the hard lockdown of professional golf in 2020.

During the first Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at De Zalze Golf Estate this August, Vodacom announced a R409 500.00 donation to the Sunshine Tour and specifically for the South African Caddie Association (SACA), which will be used to help support all professional caddies approved by the Tour.

The donation comes after Vodacom confirmed the return of the Vodacom Origins of Golf series to the Sunshine Tour’s schedule in 2021 and 2022 after it had to be postponed last year due to the Lockdown Level 5 restrictions.

The five-tournament series teed off in August, with the final tournament set to be played in 2022 and with a total of R5 million in prize money on offer throughout the series.

“As a result of the coronavirus pandemic we were unable to host the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series in 2020. We realise that this impacted heavily on the Sunshine Tour caddies across the country who rely on these tournaments to earn a living,” said William Mzimba, Vodacom Business Chief Officer.

“Since its inception in 2004, the Vodacom Origins of Golf series has been strongly aligned to the communities where the tournaments are played and supporting charities as well as golf development initiatives. It is for this reason that, in partnership with the Sunshine Tour and events rights holders FLOOID, we have made this donation to a sector of the golf industry that is critical to all of our enjoyment of this game.”

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said: “The Sunshine Tour is blessed to have sponsors and partners of the calibre of Vodacom, a company that has always supported the Tour and the greater golf family in South Africa. This is an incredible contribution to our efforts to assist our caddies financially.”

Photo: Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour

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Van Rooyen is a PGA Tour champion 1

9th August 2021

Van Rooyen is a PGA Tour champion

Erik van Rooyen claimed his first PGA Tour title when he won the Barracuda Championship in California on Sunday, and said he’d celebrate in typical South African fashion with “a Brandy and Coke”.

The South African finished with 50 points in the modified stableford scoring system used for this tournament to achieve what he said was the next step for him in his career.

“Obviously this was, in my mind, kind of the next step for what I wanted to achieve. I’ve got big dreams and aspirations, and winning on the PGA Tour was certainly part of that. I’m really, really happy.”

Van Rooyen is the third Sunshine Tour player to win on the PGA Tour this season. He is also the sixth consecutive first-time winner of the Barracuda Championship and set a record for the best winning score since the tournament changed to a modified stableford scoring system in 2012. He is also the first player since Major champion Collin Morikawa to win the tournament on his debut.

“It’s massive. It’s massive. It’s been a difficult sort of 18 months for me golf-wise. I haven’t been playing well. There’s been glimpses of it the last six months. But I haven’t been able to put four good rounds together. To win here under the conditions, you know, the pressure that I was under, I’m going to take so much confidence from this. I think it reiterates that patience is key. I was forcing things there for a long time. And ironically, with this game, when you do that, it kind of tends to go the other way. You have to let things happen and let things come to you.”

Van Rooyen joins Garrick Higgo and Branden Grace as winners on the PGA Tour this season. The last time three South Africans won in the same season on the PGA Tour was in 2010 with Tim Clark, Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen.

“Garrick has got such a bright future ahead of him. He’s played exceptional golf the last two years. And Louis obviously is someone I’ve always looked up to. And I played a lot of golf with him the last year or so. Ever since my wife and I moved back to the US we live nearby each other. Louis is so good on the golf course. And the way he handles himself, his calm demeanour, his patience, it’s really something I took away from him. We all know he’s a fantastic ball striker, but the way he handles himself, that’s something I wanted to copy. And it’s something I look up to.

“And I think as a whole we are quite motivated in general. Ernie, for me at least, was really the one that set the tone from a South African perspective. Obviously Gary Player and guys before him. But Ernie and Retief were really the eras that I look up to. And they set the tone for us and there’s so many great players coming through at the moment because of that.”

Van Rooyen also paid tribute to his wife Rose and daughter Valerie.

“My wife’s been my rock. She’s been absolutely amazing. And she’s been pretty much a single parent for three of the last four weeks, ever since we had Valerie. Her parents were with her when I was playing the British Open, but I’ve been gone three out of the four weeks. So, as I mentioned earlier, this goes out to my wife, Rose, and little Valerie.” – PGA Tour/Sunshine Tour.

Photo: Getty Images.

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Coetzee wins Vodacom Origins opener

6th August 2021

Coetzee wins Vodacom Origins opener

George Coetzee claimed a three-stroke victory in the opening tournament of the 2021 Vodacom Origins of Golf Series at De Zalze Golf Estate on Friday.

Coetzee closed with a 69 to win on 18 under par, with Jaco Ahlers and Tristen Strydom sharing second place on 15 under after their respective final rounds of 66 and 67.

The win is Coetzee’s fourth on the series since it teed off in 2004. He also becomes the first golfer in the history of the series to have won the Final of the previous season’s series, and then the very first tournament of the new season’s series. Coetzee won the 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf Final, and the series was cancelled in 2020 before making its return to the Sunshine Tour this year.

With his four Vodacom Origins of Golf Series victories, Coetzee is now tied with Darren Fichardt in second place for the most number of wins on the series. Jean Hugo is first with his 11 titles on the series.

“I’m very happy. Vodacom has basically been a partner on the Sunshine Tour since I came on Tour. So they’ve been very supportive of my whole career in that sense. It’s always been a special relationship, and it’s nice to be able to win another title on the series,” said Coetzee.

Coetzee took a three-stroke lead into the final round and says he did his best just to focus on his own game and let the rest of the field try and catch him.

“I did my best to keep it simple and stay focused on my task at hand. It looks a lot easier than it is. But I felt comfortable this whole week and I think I managed it well.”

The win was also a timely one for Coetzee.

“I’m heading over to the European Tour for about a 10-week trip. It’s always nice to get a win on home soil before leaving.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour

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Coetzee chasing Vodacom Origins glory

5th August 2021

Coetzee chasing Vodacom Origins glory

George Coetzee is on track to claim his fourth Vodacom Origins of Golf title as he heads into Friday’s final round with a three-stroke lead at De Zalze Golf Estate.

Coetzee signed for a 66 in Thursday’s second round to maintain his place at the top of the leaderboard on 15 under par.

There was another early bogey in his round, but which he followed with the same run of birdies as he did during his opening 63.

After teeing off the 10th, Coetzee bogeyed the short 12th hole. But he responded with a birdie on the 13th, added another birdie on the 18th, and then came home with a strong second nine of 31. He’s certainly not been short of birdies, making 17 of them over 36 holes.

“It’s weird. Some days you struggle to make any birdies, and then some days they just show up on your doorstep,” he said.

Coetzee is looking to add to his three titles on the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series in 2007, 2008 and 2019.

“It’s obviously nice to come back and play this Vodacom Origins of Golf series, and to play well is always a bonus.”

Benoni’s Pieter Moolman is his nearest challenger on 12 under par following his round of 65, while Tristen Strydom, Desne van den Bergh and Alex Haindl are well placed on 10 under par.

Oliver Bekker finished the round at nine under par for the tournament but had to withdraw following a positive Covid-19 test. – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour

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Coetzee leads as Vodacom Origins returns to Sunshine Tour

4th August 2021

Coetzee leads as Vodacom Origins returns to Sunshine Tour

George Coetzee picked up exactly where he left off when the Vodacom Origins of Golf series was last played on the Sunshine Tour, and that’s with his name at the top of the leaderboard.

Coetzee won the 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf Final, the last time the series was played. It had to be cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But when it made its return to the schedule this week, Coetzee looked right at home on a series where he won his first professional title, and where he has three wins in total.

He opened with a nine-under-par 63 at De Zalze Golf Estate on Wednesday to lead by one over a quality leaderboard.

“I came into this week well rested and in a good space mentally. My focus at the moment is to give myself a good chance every time I tee it up,” said Coetzee.

Jaco Ahlers is Coetzee’s nearest challenger after his bogey-free 64. Jean-Paul Strydom started his tournament in third place with a 65. Dylan Naidoo and Paul Boshoff joined the in-form Jaco Prinsloo, already a two-time winner this year, and Oliver Bekker, fresh from the Challenge Tour where he’s currently ranked sixth in the chase to earn a European Tour card, on six under. And both Toto Thimba Jnr. and Keenan Davidse showed a welcome return to form with their rounds of three-under-par 69.

But all will be chasing Coetzee who, after an early bogey on the second hole, looked in total control of his game from there on. He birdied four in five holes over the turn, and then closed with four birdies in his final five holes.

“At the start of the round I didn’t feel like I was playing well. But I just stayed patient and kept my thoughts positive.”

Coetzee was also full of praise for a De Zalze course he hasn’t played since his amateur days. “I remember playing an SA Amateur here. I don’t think I’ve played the course since, maybe once in a social round. I can’t remember. But it’s definitely a world-class course.”

And he’s given himself an equally world-class start on a Vodacom Origins of Golf Series he has fond memories of.

“I remember very well that first professional victory in 2007 on this series. Vodacom has done so much for golf in South Africa, and we’re fortunate to have them on the Sunshine Tour and to be playing these tournaments.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour

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Coetzee has a new focus for Vodacom Origins Series

3rd August 2021

Coetzee has a new focus for Vodacom Origins Series

George Coetzee has a new focus for his career, and it’s one he will continue testing when he tees it up in this week’s Vodacom Origins of Golf Series on the Sunshine Tour, which starts at De Zalze Golf Estate on Wednesday.

It’s entirely apt that Coetzee, the winner of the last Vodacom Origins of Golf Final in 2019, is in the field for this first tournament since the series returned to the Sunshine Tour schedule.

The 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf Series was the last before the global coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 series as the Sunshine Tour joined the worldwide tours in suspending its activities.

Coetzee won that event for his third victory on a series that gave him his first professional breakthrough when he won on it in 2007.

He joins a strong field of past winners on South African professional golf’s longest running series of tournaments.

This week’s field includes Jean Hugo, the most successful golfer in the 16-year history of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series with 11 titles. Former Vodacom Origins of Golf series champions Thriston Lawrence, Neil Schietekat, Keith Horne, Chris Swanepoel, Jaco Ahlers, Andrew Curlewis and Hennie Otto are also in the field.

But multiple Sunshine Tour and European Tour champion Coetzee is only focused on his own journey this week, which includes his new approach to his career.

“In a way, it’s been a blessing for me not to be able to travel to certain countries because of the pandemic. Sometimes the golf becomes just a travel process. I’ve looked at it carefully and the theory seems to be that as a professional golfer you shouldn’t be playing 30 events a year. It means you’re not really prepping properly for each event. You’re just letting each event prep you for the next event, which I feel is not really what I want to do for the rest of my career.

“There’s no benefit for me in that. You think there’s a benefit because you keep making cheques each week. But it quickly becomes more a grind and a journeyman’s approach to your career. You want to perform at your best every week, and if you don’t plan it and prepare properly, it’s probably not going to happen. So, I just want to work a little smarter with my career.

“I don’t do too many long trips away. I’ve restructured my focus like that, and now I’m in a good space and am excited to play golf.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Thinus Maritz/Sunshine Tour

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Bezuidenhout leads Team SA’s Olympic finish

1st August 2021

Bezuidenhout leads SA Olympic finish

Team South Africa’s Olympic Golf challenge ended with Christiaan Bezuidenhout finishing tied 16th and Garrick Higgo tied 53rd at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Tokyo on Sunday.

Bezuidenhout closed with a 67 for a 72-hole total of 11-under-par 273, finishing seven strokes off the winning total of 18 under par by American Xander Schauffele.

Higgo signed off his Olympic journey with a final round of 72 for a level-par 284 finish.

It was an incredible final round, including a pressure-filled battle for the gold medal and then a seven-man playoff for bronze.

Former South African and now Slovakian Rory Sabbatini produced an Olympic record of 61 on the final day to take the clubhouse lead on 17 under par. Schauffele was one shot clear on 18 under playing the 18th. His drive went far right and he had to chip out short of the green. But his third was perfect as it finished less than a metre from the hole. He made that putt for par to secure the gold medal, and Sabbatini took the silver.

Photo: Team South Africa. Credit: Ben Jared/PGA TOUR/IGF.