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27th February 2022

Ritchie makes it a double in Durban

DURBAN – JC Ritchie won the Jonsson Workwear Open at Durban Country Club on Sunday to claim back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, and take another bold step towards his goal of playing on the DP World Tour.

On a far more windy day at Durban Country Club, Ritchie withstood a strong charge from Belgium’s Christopher Mivis and signed for a final round of 71 to win by six shots on 26 under par.

“I don’t have the words for this. This week has been unbelievable. I had a hole-in-one, set a course record, had my birthday, broke my lowest score twice, and then won the tournament. I’ve never dreamt of this. This is special,” said a delighted Ritchie, who also won last week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

The Johannesburg golfer went into the final round with a 10-shot lead and having set a 54-hole scoring record on the Challenge Tour of 25 under par. But on a more tricky final day that changed the nature of this golf course, his lead was whittled down to two shots with five holes remaining as Mivis took up the challenge that was offered to the rest of the field.

As Ritchie came through 13 holes at one over for the day, Mivis was eight under through 15 holes. The Belgian made four birdies in five holes over the turn, bogeyed the 12th, and then birdied the 13th, eagled the 14th and birdied the 15th to suddenly have Ritchie in sight for the first time this week.

“I had no idea what was going on until we finished playing the 14th hole. That’s when my girlfriend Sarah came up to me and asked if I’d like to know the scores and I said, ‘Yes’. I was surprised. But I never felt like I was in trouble. I always knew somebody was going to shoot maybe seven under par, and that would still be three short of where I was. I knew I just needed to be level par or under par. I was hitting the ball well enough to not shoot over par. I was a bit nervous but once I settled in to the final round I was one over par and still had the lead by a couple of shots, so that made it easier coming down the stretch to make a couple of good swings and find birdies on the last two holes,” Ritchie said.

Mivis bogeyed his final two holes to settle for second place on 20 under par with a closing 66.

The win is another major boost towards Ritchie’s goal of playing on the main DP World Tour. Earlier in the day, Mark McNulty gave a glowing endorsement of Ritchie, who was chasing his Sunshine Tour 72-hole scoring record of 29 under par.

“I’ve been watching JC for a while now and I think he has immense talent. I love his swing and he is a very solid putter. He has it all. I think whether he is able to progress onto either the DP World Tour or on the PGA Tour, he will be very successful,” said McNulty.

And Ritchie is just as eager to make that step up.

“That’s what I’ve been dreaming of and I’m glad I’ve managed to get a step closer than I was last year. Hopefully I can close it out before these Challenge Tour events in South Africa finish. I’ve always felt my game is good enough to win in Europe and I’m good enough to take the step. In golf it comes down to one tournament for everything to change, and it sort of has.” – Michael Vlismas

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McNulty hopes Ritchie ‘Breaks my record’

DURBAN – JC Ritchie has received a glowing endorsement from the very man whose 72-hole Sunshine Tour scoring record he will attempt to break in Sunday’s final round of the Jonsson Workwear Open at Durban Country Club.

“I sincerely hope he breaks it,” said Mark McNulty of his record of 29-under-par 259 in the 1987 Royal Swazi Sun Open.

Ritchie came through 54 holes of this tournament at 25 under par following what McNulty himself described as some of the finest golf he has seen and from a golfer he believes has all the attributes to compete on the biggest stages in the game.

“Records are there to be beaten and I hope he does it. I’ve been watching JC for a while now and I think he has immense talent. I love his swing and he is a very solid putter. He has it all. I think whether he is able to progress onto either the DP World Tour or on the PGA Tour, he will be very successful.”

Louis Oosthuizen came close to McNulty’s record when he won the 2008 Telkom PGA Championship with a 72-hole total of 28-under-par 260.

Ritchie has already set a new Challenge Tour 54-hole scoring record by eclipsing the previous best of 23 under par set by Kristoffer Broberg in the 2012 Rolex Trophy.

And on Sunday, Mark McNulty will be one of the many watching with delight at a golfer who has his fellow professionals in awe of the kind of form he is currently in, and excited about the heights he could potentially reach in the game. – Michael Vlismas

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26th February 2022

Record-breaking Ritchie surges 10 clear in Jonsson Workwear Open  

DURBAN – JC Ritchie will take a 10-stroke lead into the final round of the Jonsson Workwear Open after another magnificent performance on the fairways of Durban Country Club on Saturday that broke a Challenge Tour record and which could still reach a few Sunshine Tour milestones as well.

With a bogey-free third round of 65, Ritchie pulled away from the field and to a distant 25 under par that eclipses the Challenge Tour’s previous 54-hole scoring record of 23 under par set by Kristoffer Broberg in the 2012 Rolex Trophy.

“It was another brilliant day. This golf course has been very generous to me. I keep trying to respect this golf course as much as I can and it keeps giving. I’m just very pleased,” said Ritchie.

Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin is Ritchie’s nearest challenger on 15 under par following a third round of 66 and is once again chasing a title of his own after also being in contention in last week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open. Ritchie won on that occasion, and the feeling amongst his fellow professionals is that there is again very little that can stop one of the finest displays of golf seen on the Sunshine Tour.

At his current 25 under par, Ritchie is closing in on the 72-hole total of 28-under-par 260 that Louis Oosthuizen reached when he won the 2008 Telkom PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg. And with his current 10-shot lead, he’s also in line to match or better Oosthuizen’s 14-shot margin of victory in that 2008 tournament.

Ritchie’s current lead over 54 holes is just one short of Nico van Rensburg’s 11-stroke victory in the 2000 Vodacom Series: Gauteng played at Silver Lakes Golf Estate, over 54 holes.

And judged on pure numbers alone, it provides some perspective to the golf Ritchie is playing when you consider that Tiger Woods won the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots, and Retief Goosen led the Johnnie Walker Classic by a record 13 shots through 54 holes before going on to win in 2002.

“My ball striking was pretty awesome again today. It helps to make easy decisions when you’re hitting the ball good and giving yourself chances,” said Ritchie.

It was really only Durban’s intense February heat and humidity that seemed to be his biggest challenge on Saturday.

“The heat is something special here. I’ve heard that February is the hottest month of the year here so I added a third glove in my rotation today just because it’s so hot. It makes it super tricky because you’re just trying to make sure you’re hydrated and also getting the right nutrition into your body.”

As he chases back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour and with such a commanding lead, Ritchie is doing everything in his power to stay in the present.

“The only goal is to focus on my process and what I’ve been doing and working on for the last two years. As long as I keep focusing on that then the game takes care of itself. It makes it easier to hit the shots where I want to hit them. I’ve dreamt of having a lead like this, and as much as I can I’m going to try and keep playing with my eyes closed but have them open just to enjoy it.”

When JC Ritchie was sleeping in the garage of his coach in pursuit of his dream to become a professional golfer, very few believed in him.

But now, very few will dare bet against him. – Michael Vlismas

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Ravetto hole-in-one bags him holiday for two thanks to Hilton

Frenchman David Ravetto has already booked his trip back to South Africa with his girlfriend after winning a seven-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch thanks to his hole-in-one on the par-three 12th hole at Durban Country Club during the first round of the Jonsson Workwear Open on Thursday.

Ravetto aced the famous 135-metre par three with a nine iron, claiming the Hilton prize on this hole on day one and prompting the sponsor to proudly produce another sponsorship board for the remainder of the tournament declaring, “Hole-in-Done! Congrats David!”.

“It was a perfect shot, just tracking all the way, and it took one bounce and went in. It was awesome,” said Ravetto.

“I had just taken a look at the board before I hit the shot and thought, ‘Well, that could be quite a nice prize’. Then I hit the perfect shot and thought, ‘Ok, it’s mine now’. Obviously I’ll be coming back now to have a little vacation, which will be awesome.”

Photo Caption (From left to Right): Lovet Robinson, General Manager Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch, French professional golfer David Ravetto, and Fanie Meintjes, Commercial Manager Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch at the official handing over of Ravetto’s prize on the 12th tee box at Durban Country Club. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

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25th February 2022

Ritchie on a roll in Jonsson Workwear Open 

DURBAN – JC Ritchie locked himself away in that quiet place in his head, in the way he does so well but can’t describe how to even his caddie. And there in that place where he says he finds perfect peace, he once again found perfect golf.

For the second day in succession in the Jonsson Workwear Open, Ritchie was untouchable as he followed up his first round 61 with a second round of 63 at Durban Country Club on Friday.

And now the fear from the rest of the field is that he may just be unreachable as well as he takes a six-shot lead into the weekend of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour event, and chasing back-to-back victories after his triumph in last week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

“The golf is feeling amazing. My swing is in a really good place. My mental game is in a really nice place. I feel like everything is as close to perfect as it can be. There’s always room for improvement, but I think what I’ve got right now and where I am I’m really happy,” said Ritchie as he came through 36 holes at the top of the leaderboard on 18 under par.

“There’s been some really tough times over the last 20 or so years since I decided to play the game, so if this is form then I gladly welcome it.”

There’s no doubt Ritchie is in the form of his life at the moment, and even he is struggling to explain just how he’s able to get to that place mentally that yields such incredible golf.

“It’s a tricky one. I struggle to explain exactly how I get there and where I go to in my head. Even my caddie has asked me, and I told him I just don’t know how to explain it. It’s just a quiet place in my head that I manage to go to when I’m under pressure. It’s a place that’s calm and peaceful in my head, and where I feel like I can make the best possible decisions. I try and keep that space as clear as I can – no negative thoughts or bad memories.”

His nearest challenger is Jbe Kruger, who as his playing partner over the past two days has had a front-row seat to Ritchie’s process and his golf.

“It’s some of the best golf I’ve ever seen. He’s not making a single mistake and he’s putting well. I almost want to say that if you don’t shoot 64-64 on the weekend, you won’t beat him. JC is playing unbelievable golf,” said Kruger, who was in some great form himself with a 66 at Durban Country Club on Friday that puts him on 12 under headed into the weekend.

Kruger had a day of contrasting nines, starting on the back nine with a 29 that included seven birdies and two pars – matching the back nine of John Bland when he shot a course record 62 here in the first round of the 1993 SA Open. He then came home with a 37 featuring eight pars and a bogey.

“I did everything well on the first nine, and then it was completely different on the second nine. It’s been pretty much my form. If it comes together it comes together nicely, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. So let’s hope it comes together on the weekend.”

Challenging for a title on the weekend at the historic Durban Country Club is exactly where these golfers want to be, and Ritchie is certainly keen to ensure he stays in front in this race.

“Durban Country Club has had some amazing tournaments and some pretty big golfers have won here, and to be able to put my name on that list would be pretty special,” he said. – Michael Vlismas


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24th February 2022

Birthday Boy Ritchie leads Jonsson Workwear Open

DURBAN – Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better for JC Ritchie, it did.

Only four days after his last victory, Ritchie carded a nine-under-par 61 at the par-70 Woods course at Mount Edgecombe to lead the Jonsson Workwear Open on Thursday. He also had a hole-in-one. And his 61 was a course record. Oh hang on, it was also all on his birthday.

“Today was pretty strange. It was probably the best ball striking day I’ve had in my life. I don’t remember ever having that control on a golf course. That was really nice. And to have a hole-in-one on my birthday was pretty awesome. Today was just really special,” said Ritchie.

His hole-in-one came on the 213-yard par-three second hole with a golden five iron. It was one of two holes-in-one on the opening day. At Durban Country Club, David Ravetto aced the par-three 12th hole to win himself a seven-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch.

Ritchie leads by two shots over Rupert Kaminski, whose 63 was also at the Woods course at Mount Edgecombe. The first two rounds are shared between the Durban Country Club course and Mount Edgecome Country Club’s The Woods course.

MJ Viljoen and Christopher Mivis led the scoring at Durban Country Club with their rounds of 66 to place them in a group on six under.

But on the east coast of Durban, the man clearly riding the wave of form at present is Ritchie.

Last Sunday, he holed a magnificent putt on the final green at Royal Cape to win the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open, successfully defending this title. He arrived in Durban having sorted out what he said were a few niggling issues with his ball striking, and feeling as confident as ever.

“I didn’t hit the ball well at all last weekend. I think it might have been a combination of nerves and the wind in Cape Town. But I managed to do some work and straighten out everything,” he said.

“I didn’t look at the scoreboard before I teed off. We were all wondering what kind of score you’re looking at for this week, but I just closed my eyes and took what the golf course gave me. And today it was really generous. My aim was to just keep hitting the ball in good spots and give myself realistic chances.”

Ritchie heads to Durban Country Club on Friday and has a very clear strategy for this venerable golf course.

“Durban Country Club is sneaky, so I’ll respect her as much as I can. Hopefully the ball striking stays where it is and I can just stick to my gameplan.” – Michael Vlismas


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DURBAN – The similarities between golf and rugby don’t seem obvious, but on the eve of this week’s Jonsson Workwear Open, professionals from both sports showed they do have something in common.

On Wednesday, Sunshine Tour professionals Callum Mowat and Martin Rohwer challenged Cell C Sharks flyhalf Jordan Chait to a golf versus rugby competition on the hallowed turf of the Kings Park Stadium.

From various positions on the field, the golfers had three opportunities to chip through the rugby poles and Chait had to match this with a placekick. Then the golfers had to chip one-handed while Chait had to drop-kick from the same position.

It was a challenge the golfers won, with Mowat scoring a flawless 6 out of 6, and Chait and Rohwer sharing second place with scores of 4 out of 6.

“It was an unbelievable experience. I love my golf and I follow most of these Sunshine Tour professionals. It’s unbelievable what these guys can do with a golf ball. You know, we’ve got to kick a ball around on a rugby field, but the mental side in professional golf is a whole other ball game. I’ve got a lot of respect for that,” said Chait.=

And in his opinion, the approach of both placekickers in rugby and professional golfers is very similar, especially when it comes to the different styles, techniques and mental strategies.

“In rugby, placekickers all have a different kicking style. I think it’s just about finding what is right for you, drilling that in and making it the best for you. Some kickers are very straight on, while others like a Dan Carter come around the corner and almost kick like a soccer kick. You see some very funny run-ups while others are very simple. At the end of the day it’s about what works for you and being very consistent with your technique. I think golf and place kicking are very similar in that it is very mental and you’ve got to believe that you can put the ball where you want it to be.”

However, it appears a lot easier to move from rugby to golf than the other way around. In a friendly competition after the main challenge, Chait outscored the golfers with his chips, and then was kind enough to give them a few pointers on placekicking and drop-kicking.

The $250 000 Jonsson Workwear Open is a Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament that will be played at both the Durban Country Club and Mount Edgecombe Country Club golf courses from Thursday to Sunday, with the final two rounds played solely at Durban Country Club. – Michael Vlismas 

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22nd February 2022

Stone headlines international field for new Jonsson Workwear Open

It’s another week of significant opportunity for the rising stars of the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour as the inaugural Jonsson Workwear Open tees off at both the Durban Country Club and Mount Edgecombe Country Club golf courses on Thursday.

The $250 000 tournament is the third on the seven-tournament schedule of co-sanctioned events between the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour and features a strong international field headlined by the return of multiple DP World Tour champion Brandon Stone.

It was precisely this co-sanctioning strategy that enabled Stone to achieve a first in his career when he won last year’s Limpopo Championship to record his maiden victory on the Challenge Tour.

“I’ve won on the Sunshine Tour and the DP World Tour, and I always wanted to add a victory on the Challenge Tour as well, which I was able to do,” said Stone.

JC Ritchie also knows the value of this week’s event for the field, and he heads to Durban as the latest winner after defending his title in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open last week.

“It’s brilliant for us to have these events, especially for the South Africans. To get the season off to a good start early in the year and here at home could mean that the rest of the year is a bit more comfortable,” he said.

“We have a lot of brilliant players in South Africa who often don’t have the financial support to get onto the Challenge Tour or main DP World Tour, or even to the qualifying schools. So to have these events, and in general to have that collaboration between the Sunshine Tour, Challenge Tour and DP World Tour, is so special for us as players.”

Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin, who made a strong push for his maiden Challenge Tour victory in Cape Town last week, also represents that sense of this being a true breeding ground of future champions of the game. The 19-year-old plays out of the same Holywood Golf Club that produced Rory McIlroy, and is held in high esteem by McIlroy.

The first two rounds of the Jonsson Workwear Open will be shared by both the Durban Country Club and Mount Edgecombe Country Club courses, with the final two rounds to be played solely on the historic Durban Country Club course.

All of which adds to the significance of just how special this week could be for a young professional to be able to win on a golf course as iconic as Durban Country Club, and which this year also celebrates its Centenary.

A daily maximum of 2 000 fully vaccinated spectators will be allowed to attend, and the final two rounds of the tournament will be shown live on SuperSport.

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20th February 2022

Ritchie makes Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open history

CAPE TOWN – JC Ritchie became the first player in the history of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open to successfully defend his title and also the first multiple winner of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour event at the Royal Cape Golf Club on Sunday.

Ritchie holed a magnificent 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th to win by a stroke on 18 under par with a final round of 68.

Belgium’s Christopher Mivis took second place on 17 under with a closing 66, while South Africans Zander Lombard and Bryce Easton – both with rounds of 70 – as well as Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin (73) shared third on 15 under par.

On another perfect day in the Mother City, Ritchie birdied two of his final three holes to take the title.

But it was his putt on 18 that proved the most crucial, which Mivis watched from the clubhouse as he’d already set the target at 17 under for a possible playoff.

“I didn’t have the energy for a playoff. I haven’t made a long putt all week so I said to myself on the 18th, ‘It’s time to make a long one now’. I’ve hit that same putt on 18 a couple of times in the past. When I walked onto the green I knew the line already and felt like I had a good chance of making it. Luckily it went in. It feels amazing. Words can’t describe what I’m feeling. It means everything to me,” said Ritchie.

This is Ritchie’s ninth Sunshine Tour victory in a career that is becoming an increasingly impressive one, and which also includes a Sunshine Tour Order of Merit title in the 2019-20 season. This is also the third time he’s defended a title.

“It’s special to have that under your belt – to say you’ve been able to defend titles. Especially multiple times. And to start the season off well like this could mean good things for the rest of the year.”

Ritchie will hope to continue with this form as he heads to Durban this week for the Jonsson Workwear Open at both Durban Country Club and Mount Edgecombe Golf Estate, and with his focus now firmly on working his way from here and onto the DP World Tour this year.

“I feel like my game is solid and that I’m scoring really well. The plan is to start playing on the DP World Tour. But I’m trying to keep all those milestones quiet in my head and not let them blow up what I’m currently working on. Right now it’s taking everything one shot at a time, and as long as I keep doing what I’m doing really well, all those milestones will happen as they need to.”

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19th February 2022

Young Irishman stands strong on windy day at Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open

CAPE TOWN – Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin kept his young head during an extremely tricky day at the Royal Cape Golf Club and will take a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

With a different wind pulling at the swings and nerves of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour field, McKibbin signed for a two-under-par 70 to lead the field on 16 under overall.

“I’m delighted. Arriving this morning and seeing how windy it was, I would’ve definitely taken two under today. It was really tricky,” said the 19-year-old.

His nearest challengers are defending champion JC Ritchie of South Africa and Spain’s Ivan Cantero Gutierrez on 14 under following their respective rounds of 67 and 69. And then Neil Schietekat and Zander Lombard are in a group of players on 13 under par.

The change in wind direction definitely caught the attention of this field on Saturday and had the greatest impact on the front nine.

“The wind was swirling quite a bit and it was just hard out there. It was a tough start with the wind, and then it eased up on the back nine. You could hit a good shot and it could just go into the trees,” said McKibbin.

Ritchie also struggled to adjust early in his round, and relied heavily on his past memories of this golf course and his success here.

“It was a funny round of golf today. I didn’t hit the ball great but kept my head down and missed in the right places and plotted my way around. The wind threw me a little off course. It was a wind direction I haven’t played in about two years, so it felt very strange. Early on I was uncomfortable with it, and the putter definitely kept me alive today. And it also helped just knowing where to miss on this golf course when things aren’t going your way,” he said.

Schietekat found it just as difficult out there and paid tribute to his short game for the 67 that he eventually walked off with.

“The wind was quite brutal the first nine holes and then it died down on the back nine. I had a scrambling front nine and then found something on the back, and had great up-and-downs to keep it going. I don’t feel like I’m hitting it great, but sometimes you can get scores done with just some chipping and putting.”

But as the lead changed all around him, McKibbin did a superb job of keeping focused and giving himself a shot at this title on Sunday.

“I just tried to dig in and accept every shot, and it all seemed to go all right. Once we got past the ninth hole it seemed to calm down a bit.”

He’s certainly looking forward to what could be a big Sunday for him in a tournament he was granted an invitation to compete in.

“It’s very exciting for me. I’ll just commit to every shot on Sunday and see what happens. I feel good. I’ve been practising to get myself in these positions. I’ve played a lot of golf tournaments before so I’m sure I’ll be fine. A win will mean a lot to me.”