SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

14th October 2021

Korb keeps his cool at Sun City

SUN CITY, North-West (14 October) – Ruan Korb is learning to stay patient and composed when things are not going his way in his third season on the Sunshine Tour, and he needed those qualities in the remorseless heat at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.

Korb kept his cool on a much tougher second day of the Blue Label Challenge, collecting six points in the modified Stableford scoring system and going to the top of the leaderboard on a total of 20.

The left-hander is one point ahead of first-round leader Ockie Strydom, who lost the lead thanks to a massive setback on the par-four 12th, where he lost three points. Strydom finished his round with four points to end the halfway stage of the tournament on 19 points overall.

“I didn’t look like getting to 20 points at the turn,” Korb said after his round that featured four birdies and two bogeys. “It was hot and the wind was pretty tough, swirling the whole time – it never seemed to come from the same place for longer than 10 minutes.

“I just had to keep concentrating for the whole 18 holes and, after getting going with birdies on five and six, I knew the most difficult tee-shots were coming around the turn. Unfortunately I made bogey at nine, but kept my cool and had a nice sand-save for birdie on 11.

“I feel solid about my game, I have beautiful new irons – Titleist T100s – and that has given me more confidence. I like the format too because I am an aggressive player,” Korb added.

While many of the golfers were forced to kneel before the stringent test that is the Gary Player Country Club with the wind up, it was a good day for Keagan Thomas, who picked up nine points to go to third on 17 points.

The experienced Lyle Rowe produced the second-best round of the day with his 10-point tally, including four birdies and an eagle on the 11th, lifting him to 16 points and a tie for fourth with Jaco Ahlers and Rhys Enoch.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Auto Draft 120

13th October 2021

Strydom top of the leaderboard at Sun City

SUN CITY, North-West (13 October) – Ockie Strydom is the owner of 37 top-10 finishes on the Sunshine Tour and was the runner-up at the Gary Player Country Club in the 2019 Sun City Challenge, so it is never too surprising to see him at the top of the leaderboard as he was after the first round of the Blue Label Challenge at the famous 7831-yard course on Wednesday.

In a tournament using a modified Stableford scoring system, Strydom shot a wonderful seven-under-par 65, his eight birdies and just one bogey giving him a total of 15 points. That left the 36-year-old one point ahead of Ruan Korb (66), while Jayden Schaper and Rhys Enoch also shot six-under-par but finished on 13 points because they did not have an eagle on their cards, as Korb did on the par-five 11th.

Strydom’s solitary bogey came on the first hole, and he stayed on minus-one points through the next four holes, but thereafter the Serengeti golfer found the conditions and very warm temperatures much to his liking with three successive birdies from the sixth hole. He was especially potent on the back nine, where he collected five birdies.

“On the first hole I hit two in the bush and I thought ‘here we go!’. But I kept calm and then I changed my ball after five holes because that one wasn’t really working. I then got a lucky bounce on the sixth green and I just started making birdies,” Strydom said. “I was hitting it nicely off the tee, finding the fairways and then hitting my irons quite close. The putting then works out itself.”

Strydom is known to be a big hitter off the tee and, with summer rains having arrived in the Pilanesberg, the fact that there is not as much run on the fairways as in winter has suited him.

“Most of the previous events here have been in winter, when the ball really runs on the fairways. But now it’s softer, it feels a club or two longer that normal. But I like that because it means not everyone can attack the greens from long distance. They are very soft greens though and the ball either comes back or stops dead,” Strydom said.

The man who made his breakthrough win at the 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf Series event at Sishen has enjoyed a solid season and is 30th on the Order of Merit. His tee-to-green work has been consistent, and now, as the big money co-sanctioned events loom, his putter has started coming to life.

“I was a bit off at the beginning of the season, slowly getting better and I have not struggled from tee-to-green in the last six months. My putting was a bit of a problem though and my coach Doug Wood has been working very hard at it. I’m starting to get more comfortable with the process,” Strydom said.

Toto Thimba Junior has returned from his bucket-list trip to St Andrews for the Dunhill Links Championship in fine fettle and he shot a four-under-par 68 for 11 points.

Welshman Enoch has also returned to the Sunshine Tour, for the first time since winning the KitKat Group Pro-Am in March, and has come off an up-and-down European Tour campaign. But he looked in excellent touch on Wednesday, his only dropped shot coming on the par-five 18th, which was his ninth hole.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Sunshine Tour praises Red List removal

8th October 2021

Sunshine Tour praises Red List removal

The Sunshine Tour has welcomed the announcement that from Monday 11 October South Africa will be removed from the red list for entering the United Kingdom, calling it a significant milestone in the return to normality for professional golf.

“This is a major step forward for the large number of Sunshine Tour professionals that we have playing on the European Tour, and who have found it increasingly difficult to travel during this time,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

“Travel is a critical component of professional golf. A number of our members have been unable to take up the full opportunities they’ve earned to play in tournaments in the United Kingdom or on the European Tour because of these travel restrictions.

“Many of our professionals also base themselves in the United Kingdom or travel through there as part of their European Tour schedule, and these restrictions have been a major challenge for them.

“We are grateful for the work of the South African government in campaigning for South Africa to be removed from the red list as it also plays a significant role in the co-sanctioned tournaments we host with the European Tour on our schedule.

“This is indeed a big step towards returning to normality in professional golf.”

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
SunBet Challenge cancelled due to waterlogged course

7th October 2021

SunBet Challenge cancelled due to waterlogged course

PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal (7 October) – Rain continued to fall on the already waterlogged Wild Coast Sun Country Club course overnight and with no play possible on Thursday, the Sunshine Tour took the decision to cancel the SunBet Challenge instead of trying to ram the tournament into an ever-decreasing window of better weather.

The event was originally scheduled to run from Wednesday to Friday, but the first round was postponed to Thursday due to heavy rain on the Wild Coast causing the course to be waterlogged and the tournament extended to Saturday.

At least five holes were still unplayable on Thursday and, with more rain forecast, playing a shortened tournament would amount to an unfair contest for certain golfers.

“There’s been no improvement since yesterday, there is still standing water on the course, the bunkers are full of water despite us pumping it out and in some fairways there is nowhere to drop the ball. So it’s unplayable for the same reasons as Wednesday and it would not be golf if we were to play. The rain just has nowhere to go because the water table is so high,” tournament director Gary Todd said on Thursday morning.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Auto Draft 119

6th October 2021

SunBet Challenge first round postponed

PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal (October 6) – The country’s leading golfers arrived at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Wednesday morning for the first round of the SunBet Challenge to find heavy rain pouring down, eventually leading to the postponement of the opening 18 holes.

The good news is that the Sunshine Tour have been able to push the finish to Saturday, so the R1 million event will remain a 54-hole tournament.

Tournament Director Gary Todd was hopeful of all three rounds being able to be played.

“We had to postpone the first round because of a waterlogged golf course. The golf course has had over 100 millimetres of rain over the last three days, and the water table is just too high at the moment. The forecast is good for the rest of the week and there is a bit of a breeze, so we are targeting a Saturday finish,” Todd said.

The first three-balls will tee-off at 6.40am on Thursday.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Auto Draft 118

5th October 2021

Mwandla finding his sweet spot on Tour

Sunshine Tour professional Siyanda Mwandla has been working hard to “stay in the moment” and let not the weight of playing this game for a living overwhelm him. And at the moment, he’s doing a pretty good job of it.

Mwandla was one of the most exciting amateurs in the country during his days at the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation, and then earned his place on the Sunshine Tour last season and finished 137th on the Money List after playing 10 events.

This year, he’s has built on that experience and is sitting 107th on the Order of Merit having played a dozen tournaments. But it was the last of those, the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series at Mount Edgecombe, which gave him the most confidence and which he’s keen to keep building on.

The 27-year-old posted his best-ever round on tour, a 67 that saw him lying second after the first day. A pair of 73s to close saw Mwandla finish in a tie for 38th, but it is all part of the learning experience.

“The way I approach tournaments this year has been the difference. In the past, if I played with friends on a Saturday or on my own, I was happy and excited, but then I would be playing in the Sunshine Tour on the Wednesday and I would be anxious. It felt like two different rounds when it should be the same. I didn’t understand that I was meant to be having fun on the course, whatever I was playing in,” he says.

“I’ve been working with a sports psychologist and no tournament should be bigger in terms of mindset. I need to stay in the moment, in the present, and not get too far ahead of myself. So nowadays I don’t ask for much. I just want to play the final round and make cuts consistently.”

His Mount Edgecombe performance was a sign for Mwandla that the swing changes he put in place with coach Emile Steinmann are starting to settle in as the Sunshine Tour now starts building towards the big end-of-year tournaments.

“The swing changes were not all that comfortable at first but we are trying to get more consistency. I stuck with it and two weeks ago I started to see some results, which has been very pleasing.”

For now at least, “the moment” is a pretty good place to be for Mwandla.

The Sunshine Tour travels to the Wild Coast Sun Country Club this week for the SunBet Challenge taking place from Wednesday-Friday (6-8 October) this week.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Eastern Cape to host 86th SA PGA Championship

4th October 2021

Eastern Cape to host 86th SA PGA Championship

The South African PGA Championship, South Africa’s second oldest professional golf tournament, will begin a new chapter in its illustrious history as the 86th edition will be played at St Francis Links in the Eastern Cape from 4-7 November 2021.

This will mark the first time St Francis Links hosts the flagship event of the PGA of South Africa.

“The association is proud to partner with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency to stage the event in the province where the PGA was founded in 1922,” said Ivano Ficalbi, Chief Executive of the PGA of South Africa.

“This partnership will add to the PGA’s transformational strategy and allow the PGA to achieve numerous objectives such as the growth and education of diverse candidates to membership of the PGA within the province as well as promote the fabulous Eastern Cape as a golf tourism destination.”

Vuyani Dayimani, Chief Executive Officer of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA), also expressed their delight at hosting one of South African golf’s premier tournaments.

“The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) mandate is to promote economic growth through tourism, and we look to utilise this golf tournament as such. Our partnership with the PGA is aimed at stimulating the Eastern Cape Province’s tourism sector and thus save and provide much-needed jobs as the tournament will support local businesses and attract local and international tourists.

“Golf has been one of the growing sports during COVID-19 and from a sport tourism point of view it aligns to outdoor offerings that comply with necessary health protocols. We couldn’t be more pleased to tap into its resources and audiences for tourism benefit as per ECPTA’s events strategy of seeking to use events that have a huge following and loyal fanbase to sell and showcase the Eastern Cape as a tourism destination of choice to wider audiences across the globe.”

Darren Fichardt won the 2020 championship to add his name to a list of champions including Gary Player, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Louis Oosthuizen and Dale Hayes.

“The South African PGA Championship has a proud history and occupies a premier place on our Sunshine Tour schedule. The work done by the PGA of South Africa is vital in terms of the general health of South African golf and growing the game around the country, and it’s a privilege for us to work with them and the ECPTA in showcasing this championship at a world-class venue such as St Francis Links,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

Jimmy Headbush, Promoter of the South African PGA Championship, said: “We have a world-class golf course, leading professional golfers, a top broadcast partner in SuperSport, and the beautiful Eastern Cape Province all combining for a recipe for a successful tournament. To stage an event of this magnitude, it is vital to seek partners that share in the ethos of the PGA Championship of being embedded in tradition and excellence. We are delighted to include Dirk Ellis Volkswagen, Allesverloren Wine Estate, Provantage and Cape St Francis Resort to be part of this championship. Most importantly, the tournament is embraced and supported by Provincial government, the Sarah Baartman Municipality, Kouga Local Municipality and South African Tourism.”

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Auto Draft 117

2nd October 2021

Greene is gold in Vodacom Origins playoff

GQEBERHA, Eastern Cape – Daniel Greene secured his first Sunshine Tour title in his 12th season on tour at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series Humewood event on Saturday and it took all of his composure and skill to secure the playoff win over Tristen Strydom as it was blowing a gale on the links course.

Greene completed a solid par on the first playoff hole, on the par-four 18th, while Strydom could only get a bogey after he hit his second shot well right of the green. It was a bitter blow for the 24-year-old who was also chasing his first victory on tour, Strydom missing a shortish putt for par on the last hole of regulation play.

Making the turn on two-under for his round, Greene then did exceptionally well to come home in level-par as the players faced the worst of the wind. The 36-year-old was helped by a crucial eagle on the par-five 11th.

When Strydom bogeyed the 17th it meant they were all-square going up the last and Strydom wasted a golden opportunity to win as he was lying just off the green and decided to chip his third instead of putting.

Steve Surry, Christiaan Basson and Malcolm Mitchell, who blazed through the last nine holes in four-under-par to finish with a level-par 72, all finished just one stroke off the lead on four-under-par, proving that the leaders cannot take anything for granted when conditions were as tough as they were at Humewood on Saturday.

But Greene, who has a strong record in Vodacom events on the coast, showed he could adapt and remain unflustered despite how testing the situation was.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']
Auto Draft 116

1st October 2021

Top trio chasing title at historic Humewood

GQEBERHA, Eastern Cape – Malcolm Mitchell dared to take Driver on a dozen holes on Friday in the second round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series at Humewood Golf Club and quickly reaped the rewards as he raced up the leaderboard with a five-under-par 67 lifting him into a share of the lead heading into Saturday’s final round.

The wind was still up on Friday but Mitchell dropped just one stroke on his way to a total of four-under-par after the first two rounds, tied with 27-year-old Richard Joubert and veteran Hennie Otto.

Collecting six birdies, three on each loop, suggests an aggressive approach by the former Eisenhower Cup representative, but apart from backing himself with Driver, Mitchell felt his strategy was pretty risk-free.

“The two parts of my game that have been good for a while have been my driving and putting, which really helps on a links course. There were only two holes where I did not take Driver, but I’ve only missed four or five fairways on the first two days, so I’ve pretty much always been in a good position and my putting has been very good over the last while.

“In terms of being aggressive, in the moment there might be one shot that I might feel I can have a go at, but then there are others where I’ll aim 20 feet right or short. So I don’t go at it too much, I don’t change game-plans and I just try to stay in the moment and enjoy it,” Mitchell said after his round.

And being focused on the present and having fun is exactly what Mitchell will be doing in the final round, having learnt some lessons from his runners-up finish in August in the SunBet Challenge at Wingate Park Country Club in Pretoria. In that tournament he also went low in the second round, a 65 lifting him to second, but then he closed with a 72 to leave him three adrift of Estiaan Conradie.

“It’s funny how life teaches you different things. You work so hard to stay in the present but then sometimes you mess it up and get ahead of yourself or start thinking of the past. But winning three times in 2019 always sits there. Those memories are there to go back on, they can only help. It means I’ve been there, even though it was the Big Easy Tour, and knowing how to win definitely sticks in the back of your mind,” Mitchell said.

One man who is unlikely to have any trembling knees if he stays in contention on Saturday is Otto, because he has done it all before with 13 wins on the Sunshine Tour, the most recent being at the Sibaya Challenge in October 2019. The 45-year-old also finished in a tie for second in the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Sishen at the end of August.

Otto has had a run of four successive top-30 finishes on tour and the former SA Open champion was looking dangerous as he fired a four-under-par 68 on Friday.

Joubert was just one stroke off the lead after the first round and, starting on the 10th, he soared into the lead with an eagle on the par-five 11th and then holed out for an eagle-two at the par-four 16th. Bogeys at 17 and 18 undid some of that amazing work though, and he dropped two more shots on the front nine, but finishing with three straight pars gave him a 71 and he is far from done-and-dusted in this race.

Overnight leader Tristen Strydom shot a 73 on Friday and is one stroke back on three-under for the tournament, alongside Michael Palmer (68) and Daniel Greene (69).

There are three golfers two shots back on two-under-par who will need to be watched carefully as well – Christiaan Basson (68), Jean Hugo, who fired a brilliant 66, and Jayden Schaper (69).