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New Pecanwood Classic tees off on European Tour in 2022

17th November 2021

New Pecanwood Classic tees off on European Tour in 2022

South African golf will have yet another major international tournament on its fairways when the Pecanwood Classic make its debut as a co-sanctioned tournament between the Sunshine Tour and European Tour at the Pecanwood Golf & Country Club from 10-13 March 2022.

The new tournament will feature a prize fund of $1.5 million and the field of 156 professionals will be split between Sunshine Tour and European Tour golfers competing at South Africa’s first Jack Nicklaus signature golf course.

“We’re delighted to welcome Pecanwood Golf & Country Club as the home of the new Pecanwood Classic on our Tour. As South Africa’s first Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, Pecanwood set a new benchmark for golf courses in South Africa when it opened, and we are extremely pleased to finally bring a major international Sunshine Tour and European Tour tournament to its fairways,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

“The Pecanwood Classic will be played in an important window for us in March and gives us a very strong finish to our summer schedule while at the same time providing our Sunshine Tour professionals with yet another big opportunity to compete for a place on the European Tour.”

Since its official opening in 1996, the Pecanwood golf course has welcomed several amateur and professional tournaments to its fairways on the banks of the spectacular Hartbeespoort Dam and within an hour’s drive of both Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The Pecanwood Classic is a significant milestone in the golf course’s history and adds to the country’s already strong presence on the European Tour’s international schedule with a total of six South African tournaments now co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.

“We’re extremely excited to launch the Pecanwood Classic as an international tournament that will truly showcase the Pecanwood Estate’s status as one of South Africa’s first and still leading golf estates, offering a choice lifestyle in prestige and secure environment,” said Morné Botha, General Manager of the Pecanwood Estate Homeowners’ Association (HOA).

“We have no doubt that the backdrop of a world-class golf course, and a lifestyle estate offering everything from golf to boating will captivate the golfers and the international audience as much as it does our residents who call this magical piece of Africa their home.”

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16th November 2021

Dylan driven to perform in Joburg Open

JOHANNESBURG – Dylan Naidoo is driven by one very clear goal when it comes to this year’s Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club, and that’s to play well as a “thank you” to an event he feels has given him incredible support in his golf career.

Naidoo heads back to South Africa for this summer more excited than ever to tee it up in the three tournaments co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour, and starting with the Joburg Open from 25-28 November.

The young Johannesburg professional now has playing privileges on three tours including the Sunshine Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and MacKenzie Tour. It’s been a year of incredible growth for the former GolfRSA elite national squad member, and he says he cannot wait to test out the international experience he’s gained in South Africa this summer.

“I went overseas to give myself the opportunity to test myself, and I’ve realised my game is good enough to translate onto the world stage. I’m so excited to testing that out in these big events back home,” said Naidoo.

And it’s the Joburg Open which he’s identified as a tournament he feels particularly strong about performing well in.

“I have such a long history with the Joburg Open. I was a 16-year-old amateur when they gave me an invitation to play in it the first time. So I badly want to do well for the people who gave me that opportunity, specifically the tournament promoter Bongi Mokaba and the whole team at the City of Johannesburg.”

Playing in a field of Sunshine Tour and European Tour stars, Naidoo says he believes his affinity for Randpark’s two championship golf courses as well as a better understanding of his own game gives him a good chance of following through on his plans.

“I think the golf courses set up pretty well for me because I can hit driver quite a bit, and I’m thinking of adding a bit more clubhead speed for that week. But most importantly, I feel like my game is in a place now where my ceiling has been raised a lot. I’m really interested to see how far I can go and am very excited about the Joburg Open.”

An added incentive for Naidoo and the rest of the field is that the Joburg Open will mark the official start of the road to the 150th Open in St Andrews. The R&A (The Royal and Ancient – one of the governing bodies of world golf) confirmed that The Open Qualifying Series for 2022 will begin with the Joburg Open. The leading three golfers finishing in the top 10 and ties who are not already exempt will qualify for The 150th Open next year.

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Wilco chasing a win at Leopard Creek

15th November 2021

Wilco chasing a win at Leopard Creek

South Africa’s big-hitting Wilco Nienaber heads back to Leopard Creek this December as a vastly more experienced professional and determined to use this to push for a maiden European Tour victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The 21-year-old had a strong summer in South Africa last year when he finished 12th in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, second in the Joburg Open and 11th in the South African Open. He returns armed with the experience and confidence of a maiden professional title in May’s Dimension Data Pro-Am – co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour – playing in and making the cut in his first Major at the US Open, and making his PGA Tour debut and making the cut in all three of those tournaments.

“I’ve definitely grown in my game and experience. The player I am at the moment compared to the player I was six months ago is way different,” said Nienaber, who joins another quality field for the 9-12 December Alfred Dunhill Championship, including defending champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout, former champions Brandon Stone and Richard Sterne, PGA Tour campaigner Dylan Frittelli, European Tour champions Dean Burmester, George Coetzee, Daniel van Tonder and Justin Harding, and top South African amateurs Christiaan Maas and Casey Jarvis.

“This year has really strengthened my belief in trusting the process. So I’ll approach this summer in South Africa with a lot more patience in my game, and perhaps with a better understanding of how to handle certain situations. And also, knowing the courses now, I’ll play them differently and more to my strengths,” said Nienaber.

A win at Leopard Creek would be particularly special for Nienaber, who has never forgotten his roots in the game and the role being part of the GolfRSA National Elite Squad, which had many of its training camps and international tournaments at Leopard Creek, has played in his career.

“My goal is to play in the Majors and in the biggest tournaments in the world. I’ve always said that. The opportunities I was given as a member of the GolfRSA squad at the start of my career has been incredible. It’s all played a role in making me a better golfer and I’m extremely grateful for that.”

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9th November 2021

The road to St Andrews and Open glory begins in Joburg

The 2021 Joburg Open will mark the official start of the road to the 150th Open in St Andrews as one of the City of Johannesburg’s premier sports events begins the global qualifying for next year’s Major.

The R&A (The Royal and Ancient – one of the governing bodies of world golf) on Monday confirmed that The Open Qualifying Series for 2022 will begin with the Joburg Open when it is played from 25-28 November at Randpark Golf Club.

The Joburg Open, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour, has previously featured in The Open Qualifying Series and the leading three golfers finishing in the top 10 and ties who are not already exempt will qualify for The 150th Open.

Previous qualifiers from the Joburg Open include 2012 Joburg Open champion Branden Grace, who shot 62 in The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale to set the record for the lowest round in a men’s Major Championship, PGA Tour and European Tour winner Erik van Rooyen, and four-time European Tour winner and former Joburg Open champion Andy Sullivan.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said, “The excitement is already building for The 150th Open at St Andrews and leading players around the world will be determined to be part of this historic occasion by qualifying for the Championship. We look forward to seeing which three golfers emerge at the Joburg Open to book their place at St Andrews next year.”

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Frittelli back to chase SA Open glory again

Dylan Frittelli heads back to the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City this December to challenge for a South African Open Championship title he believes he needs to win if he wants to have a career which he considers to be complete.

Frittelli has won on the PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour. But he identifies the South African Open as a title every South African professional would feel he needs to win at some point in his career.

“If I don’t win the South African Open, it’s definitely going to be something that I’ll feel like I haven’t accomplished in my career,” Frittelli said.

“The South African Open is the one I want to win. I used to watch the South African Open as a kid and I remember a bunch of them. I definitely remember the duel between Ernie Els and Retief Goosen at Fancourt in 2005.”

Frittelli joins a strong field of South Africa’s next generation of PGA Tour and European Tour stars who will also challenge for the title of the second oldest national Open in golf from 2-5 December at the iconic Gary Player Country Club course, and jointly supported by Nedbank and Sun International.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout returns to defend the title he won by a commanding five shots last year. Frittelli finished third on that occasion.

European Tour champion Dean Burmester, who finished fourth last year, is back having just won the South African PGA Championship and his second European Tour title this year.

Rising PGA Tour star Garrick Higgo is also in the field as he returns to a course where he won his first professional title on the Sunshine Tour in the 2019 Sun City Challenge.

George Coetzee, Wilco Nienaber, Justin Harding, Darren Fichardt, Daniel van Tonder and Brandon Stone are also set to tee it up at Sun City.

And they will do so in front of a limited number of fans who will be allowed to attend the South African Open for the first time in almost two years.

The Sunshine Tour has joined other South African sports organisations and federations in welcoming back a limited number of 2 000 fully vaccinated spectators to its upcoming tournaments this summer.

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8th November 2021

Player’s new charity golf event a tribute to late wife Vivienne and a legacy of giving back

The Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation, in partnership with the Sunshine Tour, has launched the ultimate tribute to the life and legacy of Vivienne Player with the announcement of the new Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational charity golf tournament that will be played at The Lost City Golf Course at Sun City from 22-23 January 2022.

Sanctioned and supported by the Sunshine Tour, the tournament will feature a field of celebrities, business leaders, and 15 Sunshine Tour professionals competing in aid of helping the Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation to raise funds for the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School. The Sunshine Tour professionals will qualify by virtue of their finishes in the inaugural Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge, a R1 million tournament that will be played at The Lost City Golf Course from 19-21 January 2022. The top 15 professionals at the end of this tournament will then qualify to play in the Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational.

Player has said that the new tournament, which will form part of the Sunshine Tour’s schedule, is in memory of his wife Vivienne, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in August this year.

“Vivienne shared my love for people and my desire to make a difference in people’s lives and to help bring some joy to disadvantaged communities. Her life was dedicated to the people around her – from supporting me in my career, to raising our children, and then to working with me in our various efforts to give back to those in need. The Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational will not only be a fitting tribute to Vivienne, but it will also continue her legacy and the important work we will continue to do through the Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation,” said Player.

The establishment of the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School on their Blair Atholl farm near Johannesburg in 1990 for the children of farm workers in that community marked the official start of the Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation.

The Foundation was established to nurture and educate a handful of children near their farm, with the desire to support, uplift and develop underprivileged and vulnerable children.

Gary and Vivienne Player have devoted their life’s work to making a difference in communities and to individuals, and the Foundation builds on this legacy and remains committed to protecting and enriching the lives of vulnerable youths.

The Blair Atholl Pre-Primary school has since grown to 125 children between the ages of 3 and 6, some of whom have returned as current teachers at the school.

And it is entirely apt that the school will be the beneficiary of the inaugural Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational.

“There is that saying that behind every successful man is a strong woman. Mrs Player played such an important role in the success of Mr Player and the Foundation. It was that gentle soul that she had that made such a big difference,” said Alex Maditsi, a trustee of The Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation.

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said they were delighted to support the legacy of Mrs Player through these events.

“Gary Player has done so much for the growth of the Sunshine Tour and South African professional golf, and Vivienne Player in turn played such a vital role in not only his success but also the success of their Foundation and the impact it has made on so many young lives. We are proud to lend our support and that of our member professionals, and to play a role in helping with the important work of the Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation.”

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7th November 2021

Burmester adds his name to SA PGA Championship history

ST FRANCIS (Eastern Cape) – Dean Burmester claimed his second victory this year as he added his name to one of the most prestigious trophies in South African golf when he won the 86th PGA Championship at St Francis Links on Sunday.

Burmester signed off with an incredible final round of 65 – including a front nine of 29 – to win by two shots on 17 under par.

“This is massive. I’ve come close to winning this a couple of times before. I’ve always wanted to get my name on this trophy with a lot of the legends of the game, and I had high expectations for this week. I’m just glad I managed to do what I came here to do,” said Burmester, who lost in a playoff for this title to Jaco van Zyl in 2016.

It caps what has been a highly significant year for Burmester in which he won his second European Tour title in May’s Tenerife Open, won the second oldest professional tournament in South Africa, and recently celebrated the birth of his second child.

“It’s been fantastic and hopefully it can continue and I can show this form in some of the biggest events in the world. I just want to give my family a good life through my golf.”

Pieter Moolman took second place on 15 under par with a closing 66, while former South African PGA Championship winner Louis de Jager finished third on 14 under par, also with a final round of 66. Overnight leader Steve Surry of England took fourth place on 13 under with a 72.

Burmester teed off the final round three shots off the lead and was in sublime form on the front nine as he was six under through his first six holes and then added another birdie on the eighth to turn in 29. He parred his way all the way to the par-three 17th where he made his only bogey of the round, and then birdied the 18th to secure the title.

“I kind of like getting off to a bit of a flyer like that. I played flawless golf and the putts went in on that front nine. They didn’t drop on the back nine though. I pushed the par putt on 17, expecting it to break because that green slopes so much, so I don’t know what happened there. But fortunately the golfing gods were looking over me on the 18th.”

The Sunshine Tour now prepares for its major European Tour co-sanctioned events, beginning with the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club from 25-28 November.

 

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6th November 2021

Surry chasing history in SA PGA Championship

ST FRANCIS (Eastern Cape) – Steve Surry will take a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round of the South African PGA Championship at St Francis Links, and is looking to become the first Englishman to win this championship since it became a stroke play event.

With a limited number of fans looking on as the Sunshine Tour welcomes back spectators to its events, Surry climbed to 13 under par overall with a third round of 67. South Africa’s Luca Filippi and Albert Venter are chasing him on 11 under par after they both signed for rounds of 67.

Only seven foreigners – excluding Zimbabwean golfers – have managed to win the South African PGA Championship since 1965, when it moved from being a match play event to a stroke play tournament. And there isn’t an Englishman amongst them.

“I would’ve thought one of the English boys would’ve snuck in there already,” said Surry. “But if I am able to win it, it would be great in terms of the stature of this tournament in South African golf. I’ve been coming out to play on the Sunshine Tour for years now and I love it here. It feels like a second home for me. And in my off time I spend a lot of time with friends in Gqeberha and St Francis. It was great to play in front of crowds again and see some familiar faces from around here. This is probably the closest I’ll get to a home event outside of England.”

Surry led the first round with an impressive 63 but then struggled in the wind on day two with a 73. But on Saturday, with the course once again in a forgiving mood, the Englishman surged ahead with a fantastic start of six under through this first six holes, including four birdies and an eagle.

“You can’t really ask for a better start than that. The course played a lot easier than the second round where there was a little bit of wind. It doesn’t take a lot of wind to make this course very tricky.”

Fellow Englishman Robin Williams joins European Tour champion Dean Burmester just three shots off the lead. Former South African PGA Championship winner Louis de Jager would’ve been in that group as well were it not for a double bogey on the 18th.

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5th November 2021

De Jager chasing second SA PGA Championship title

ST FRANCIS (Eastern Cape) – Louis de Jager will take a two-stroke lead into the weekend of the South African PGA Championship as he looks to win this prestigious title for a second time in his career.

On another benign day by the standards of the St Francis Links, De Jager added a 66 to his opening 68 to lead the field on 10 under par. His nearest challengers are first-round leader Steve Surry, who struggled to a second round of 73, and Michael Hollick, who signed for a 70, on eight under par overall. And young star Jayden Schaper remains in the hunt just three strokes off the lead following a second round of 72.

De Jager did most of his scoring on his second nine, the course’s front nine, where he made five birdies in a stretch of six holes to work his way into the lead as he looks to add to his 2019 triumph in South Africa’s second oldest professional tournament.

“It’s great to be home and see some familiar faces, and it feels just as good to be on top of a leaderboard again,” said De Jager, who had his fair share of COVID-related travel issues while trying to campaign on the European Tour before deciding to return home to the Sunshine Tour.

And he now has the opportunity to become a rare multiple winner of the South African PGA Championship, a title he says was one of his top priorities when he turned professional in 2008.

“When I turned professional, outside of the co-sanctioned events with the European Tour, the South African PGA Championship was always the biggest event on our Tour. So when I came out on Tour I always wanted to win it, and it was really special winning it the first time in 2019. It would be great to win it twice.”

The St Francis Links course has been unusually forgiving of the field this week, largely due to a lack of the kind of wind that can make it a beast of a golf course.

This as well as a combination of De Jager’s own patience and improved putting form helped carry him to the top of the leaderboard.

“I wasn’t really on form in the first round, and then today I hit the ball well and made a few puts and just stayed patient. But the golf course has been great. It’s obviously built for a bit of wind, but I think it’s a great venue for one of the flagship tournaments on the Sunshine Tour.”

 

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Ace carries Surry into lead at SA PGA Championship

4th November 2021

Ace carries Surry into lead at SA PGA Championship

On a magnificent day at St Francis Links, England’s Steve Surry produced an equally magnificent round of golf when he scored a hole-in-one on his way to the first-round lead of the South African PGA Championship.

Surry aced the par-three seventh hole in a bogey-free round of nine-under-par 63 to lead by two shots over his nearest challengers Jayden Schaper and Ruan Conradie.

“It was certainly one of my better days on the course. It’s always nice to have a hole-in-one during a round, and even more so when it can actually mean something at the end of the day,” said Surry after the ninth hole-in-one of his career and his third in a tournament.

“I had about 191 yards into the wind and took a four iron off the tee. I was actually trying to play right of the flag and ended up pulling the shot a bit. I saw it bounce but didn’t see it finish. I was playing with Keith Horne and he said he thought it went in, but we looked at the scorer on the side of the green and he was doing nothing. It turns out he didn’t see it either, but when we got to the green, there my ball was in the hole.”

It capped a day of magnificent ball striking by Surry, who took the most advantage of a rare windless day on a St Francis Links course that can be brutal when it blows.

“It’s a bit of a treat to play this course without much wind. I think my iron play really stood out today and was the main strength of my game. But it was just really nice to be able to turn it all into a good score.”

Surry came into this week with two missed cuts in his last two tournaments, but says an equipment change made the difference.

“I put some different shafts in my irons and I’m a bit more familiar with them, so I think that helped.”

The Englishman is hunting his second victory on the Sunshine Tour and appreciates exactly what leading the South African PGA Championship means in the context of the history of South Africa’s second oldest professional tournament.

“I’ve been coming to play on the Sunshine Tour for about eight years now and I love it here. It’s like a second home for me now. After the SA Open, the SA PGA Championship is one of the biggest up there in terms of history. It’d be a great one to try and win.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour