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18th February 2022

McKibbin shoots 62 to lead Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open

CAPE TOWN – The venerable Royal Cape Golf Club has seen a number of fine rounds of golf in its 137-year history, and Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin added his name to this list with a remarkable second round of 10-under-par 62 to take the lead going into the weekend of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

The 19-year-old McKibbin, who shoulders the weight of being from the same Holywood Golf Club as Rory McIlroy, produced golf just as sublime as his more famous countryman when he equalled the course record at Royal Cape, but with placing in effect.

McKibbin’s 62 lifted him 14 under par for the tournament and three strokes clear of South Africa’s Zander Lombard, who signed for a second-round 65, and Spain’s Ivan Cantero Gutierrez, who posted a 68 – both of them at Rondebosch, which is the other golf course that hosted the first two rounds of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.

Defending champion JC Ritchie is well placed at nine under par going into the weekend and alongside fellow South Africans Louis de Jager, Keenan Davidse and Pieter Moolman.

After his 68 at Rondebosch the day before, McKibbin arrived at Royal Cape on a windless Friday morning and birdied his first seven holes for a front nine of 29. He added three more birdies on the back nine, taking him to 14 birdies in his last two rounds and without a single bogey.

“It was really good. I was going out there just to try and shoot a good round and I started off with seven birdies in a row, which was very surprising. Especially around here with how tight this golf course is. It was a very special day,” he said.

The 14 birdies notwithstanding, McKibbin says he takes greater pride in not having made a bogey over the past two rounds.

“I think not dropping a shot in two rounds is pretty special for me because both courses are tight. There wasn’t as much wind today and I took advantage of those conditions. The practice rounds were real windy so I thought it was going to be pretty hard this week. But with that kind of start it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and stop that momentum with a bogey. I just took it one shot at a time and I think I handled it pretty well.”

Behind him, Ritchie is certainly relishing the chance to defend his title this weekend. “I’m very happy. I’m playing good golf and I’m pleased my game is on form again. I’m looking forward to the weekend because I like this golf course and it definitely helps that I’ve won here before.”

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17th February 2022

Europeans wary of SA challenge in Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open  

CAPE TOWN – The Europeans dominated the leaderboard after Thursday’s first round of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open, but with the knowledge that the South Africans will definitely still be a factor over the next three rounds of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour event.

Sweden’s Christofer Blomstrand and Spain’s Ivan Cantero Gutierrez led the field with their rounds of seven-under-par 65, scored at Rondebosch Golf Club and Royal Cape Golf Club respectively. The first two rounds of the tournament are shared by both courses, with the final two rounds to be played solely at Royal Cape Golf Club.

South Africa’s Louis de Jager finished the day one shot off the lead alongside Italy’s Matteo Manassero and Ireland’s Paul Dunne. And South Africans Zander Lombard, Neil Schietekat, Ulrich van den Berg, Keenan Davidse, Dylan Naidoo and Nikhil Rama are three shots off the pace, while defending champion JC Ritchie is four shots off the lead.

It was Dunne in particular, who has played in South Africa for many years, who brought attention to that fact that South African golfers are notoriously hard to beat on home fairways, and that he expects a strong challenge from them.

“I’ve noticed that more than any other country, the South Africans seems to play really well in South Africa. It’s a big advantage for the South Africans down here,” he said after his 66 at Royal Cape.

In the previous nine editions of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open, European golfers have triumphed on only two occasions. And one South African who will certainly fancy his chances after his start this week is Lombard.

With a round of 68 at Royal Cape, Lombard is in a good position to go one better than his second-place finish here in 2019.

“I was really solid, barring the double bogey on 14 which broke my momentum a bit. But I’m really looking forward to what the rest of the week has in store for me. I love Royal Cape. I’ve always done well here,” he said.

Lombard will take on Rondebosch Golf Club on Friday, where he’ll look to keep positioning himself well for a return to Royal Cape on the weekend.

“My golf has been good for three months now, and this game is all about confidence. I’m riding the wave and seeing what I can do with it. I’ve been doing a lot of maintenance on all aspects of my game to keep everything sharp. It felt like my pre-season training was good. I did a lot of gym work and got the body in the right frame to be able to deliver the club in the position I want to. I’m just feeling really solid across the board and it’s showing in my consistent scores at the moment,” he said.

Davidse was also pleased with his start to this tournament and the 68 he posted at Rondebosch. “I’ve got a gameplan for this week and will stick to it. I’m not going to chase anything. My main strategy is just to enjoy my golf more. I’m feeling bit more relaxed out there, and that’s been important for me,” he said.

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Rugby stars win in battle against the pros

The DHL Stormers once again challenged the Sunshine Tour professionals in a three-hole match on the eve of this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club on Wednesday. And once again it was the rugby boys who emerged victorious.

Led by Steven Kitshoff, the team of Damian Willemse, Neethling Fouché and Ruhan Nel successfully defended the title they also won last year when they beat the professional team of Jaco Ahlers, Keenan Davidse, Benjamin Follett-Smith and Dylan Mostert.

The rugby players did have the benefit of playing a scramble format while the professionals had to each play their own ball. But they nevertheless delivered with some quality golf in very windy conditions that even impressed their professional opponents.

“After last year’s good win for the DHL Stormers we were very excited to take on the Sunshine Tour pros again. It gave us a lot of bragging rights during the year,” said Kitshoff.

Ahlers captained the Sunshine Tour team and said while a successive defeat was hard to swallow, it was another great contest. “It was great fun, especially taking them on on our turf. I think if we played rugby against them we’d definitely come second. But it’s great to have them out here and supporting the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open as well.”

The tournament will be played from Thursday to Sunday with the first two rounds on both the Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf Club courses, and the final two rounds played solely at Royal Cape.

Photo: Sunshine Tour professional Jaco Ahlers (left) led his team of professionals against Steven Kitshoff’s team of DHL Stormers rugby players in their second match ahead of this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club on Wednesday, and which the DHL Stormers won. Credit: Sunshine Tour

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16th February 2022

Mental strength key for both pro golfers and ultra runner Sandes

CAPE TOWN – Running ultra marathons and some of the longest races on the planet and a five-hour round of professional golf may not seem to have anything in common. But world-renowned trail runner Ryan Sandes believes both sports place an intense focus on correct mental preparation.

The professionals competing in this week’s Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at both the Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf Club, which tees off on Thursday, are all seeking that mental edge in a sport that requires them to maintain focus and concentration for hours on end while competing at the highest level.

“The mental side of things is so important in sport, no matter what the sporting discipline. Just being able to have that sustained focus for a long time is key,” says Sandes, a legend of his sport and a proud Capetonian.

And in a similar fashion to a professional golfer mapping out his course strategy in his head, Sandes says he relies heavily on visualisation to prepare for the demands of the trail he’ll be running.

“Visualisation is important for me in ultra running. I run through in my mind how the day is going to go – good and bad,” he says.

Professional golfers often speak about leaving a bad shot or hole behind them as quickly as possible and not “taking it with” mentally onto the next tee box. Sandes believes in the same.

“The biggest thing is that when things aren’t going your way, that you’re still able to keep your focus and get through that and stay present. I break down a race into bite size chunks, and I would imagine in golf it would be a case of taking it one hole at a time and not drifting off and thinking everything is now going to fall apart.”

Gary Player has always declared that it’s not a lack of nerves that makes a champion, but rather an ability to correctly manage the inevitable nervous tension before a major tournament. According to Sandes, finding enjoyment in his sport enables him to correctly manage the pressure of performing at an elite level.

“It’s important to keep the enjoyment and take the pressure off a bit, and to use pressure in the right way. One of the top tri-athletes once said that pressure is a privilege, and you need to focus it in the right way. I think the day I stop feeling nervous before an event then it’s probably time to stop. Some nerves and anxiety is good. If I’m overly nervous before an event, I’ll do breathing drills or just go for a run to get in the right headspace to compete.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Sunshine Tour professional Keagan Thomas focusing his mind during a practice round ahead of this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

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15th February 2022

A big week in the Mother City for international golf’s rising stars

CAPE TOWN – Cape Town will host the finest young stars from both the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour in this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open which is the second of a run of seven co-sanctioned tournaments, and with recent champion Alexander Knappe declaring these events as a real gamechanger for their careers.

Knappe, the winner of last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am, forms part of a strong field gathered at both Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf Club this week.

There are six former champions in the field this week including defending champion JC RitchIe as well as Jaco Ahlers, Rhys Enoch, Jake Roos, Benjamin Follett-Smith and Anton Karlsson.

There are also a host of players hungry to go one better than their second-place finishes in this tournament such as Jacques Blaauw, Zander Lombard, Peter Karmis, Ockie Strydom, Steve Surrey, Hennie Otto, Michael Hollick and Jaco van Zyl.

But as Knappe has pointed out, there is a greater benefit for every single player in terms of the opportunity created by this series of tournaments.

“These seven tournaments in Africa to start our season with are really important. We would usually start in May, and that is half a year off if we didn’t have these tournaments with the Sunshine Tour,” said Knappe.

“We’re grateful to the Sunshine Tour for co-sanctioning these tournaments with the Challenge Tour and putting up such great tournaments. The golf courses here are always great and the tournaments are so well run. And most importantly, it keeps us playing because we have a long season with a great schedule and increased prize money. It means a lot to us as players.”

Knappe’s view aligns perfectly with sponsor Bain’s Whisky’s philosophy for this tournament.

“Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky is expertly crafted in South Africa and celebrated internationally for its fresh approach on traditional whisky making, which has included winning the world’s best single grain whisky twice in the last decade. Similarly, we are proud to support a tournament in Cape Town that resonates with a global audience. Opportunity is a key ingredient to success and we’re delighted to support both the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour players with yet another opportunity to develop their careers,” said Kavir Gangiah, Distell Group Media, Sponsorship and Events Lead for Southern Africa.

The Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open celebrates its 10thanniversary this week, marking a decade of the city of Cape Town’s proud support of international golf on local fairways.

“I am delighted to welcome the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and its participants to the Mother City. The Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open has remained one of the mainstays of the city’s annual events calendar over the last decade and has consistently increased in popularity,” said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

“Council recently approved a new three-year agreement with the Southern Africa PGA Tour for the City of Cape Town to continue sponsorship of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.”

The tournament will be played on both the Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf Club courses. The first two rounds will be played on both golf courses, and the final two rounds will be played solely at Royal Cape Golf Club.

A maximum of 2 000 fully vaccinated spectators will be allowed per day.

Following this week in Cape Town, the remainder of the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned schedule is as follows:

24-27 February – $250 000 Jonsson Workwear Open (Durban CC and Mt Edgecombe CC)

3-6 March – $250 000 Mangaung Open (Bloemfontein GC and Schoeman Park GC)

24-27 March – $250 000 SDC Open (Zebula Golf Estate & Spa and Elements Private Golf Reserve)

31 March – 3 April – $250 000 Limpopo Championship(Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate and Koro Creek Bushveld Estate)

7-10 April –  $275 000 Mount Kilimanjaro Klassic (Kilimanjaro Golf & Wildlife Estate)

 

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13th February 2022

Knappe claims emotional win in Dimension Data Pro-Am

Michael Vlismas

GEORGE, Western Cape – Germany’s Alexander Knappe broke down in tears after winning the Dimension Data Pro-Am by a single stroke over South Africa’s Dean Burmester at Fancourt on Sunday.

After a final-round battle that saw him and Burmester tied for the lead for most of the day, Knappe birdied the par-five 18th on the Montagu golf course for a 68 that earned him victory on 23 under par. Burmester took second place on 22 under par with a closing 68 of his own.

For Knappe, this was an emotional victory at a place he calls his second home and where he spends the European winters practicing.

“Fancourt is like a home for me. I live here on the estate. The three courses here are so good to practice on and get ready for tournaments. South Africa is really lovely, and George is special to me,” said a delighted Knappe, who last won in 2016.

This was indeed a special victory forged as the mixture of a dream and intense hard work.

“In 2015 I saw this tournament, and in 2016 I played in it for the first time and finished third. I’ve just always wanted to win this tournament.”

Burmester pushed as hard as he could and his birdie on 16 drew him level with the German, and with the par-five 18th to come. But the South African could only manage a par at the last, opening the door for Knappe playing behind him and who had a short putt for birdie and the title.

The emotion he showed was the result of the countless hours he has spent practicing on these three golf courses, the intense work he’s put in on the mental side of his game over the past few months, and the added work he’s done physically with his South African trainer Garth Milne. And it all came together in a week in which he didn’t make a single bogey in 72 holes.

“It was good competition with Dean, and four rounds bogey free on these golf courses is an unbelievable feeling for me. I just love this place so much. I’ve spent so many hours on these courses – in the rain, when there’s been a threat of lightning, when nobody has been out here I’ve been working on these greens, and when it happened now all that hard work just came out in tears.

“I really wanted it, and now it’s a reality.”

The Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour travel to Cape Town this week for the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf

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12th February 2022

Major mindset gives Burmester shot at Dimension Data Pro-Am title

By Michael Vlismas

GEORGE, Western Cape – Dean Burmester has aspirations of becoming South Africa’s next Major champion, and on Saturday in the third round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am he showed the kind of game and mental strength that will get him there.

Burmester signed for a 63 on the Montagu course – including three eagles, with two of them coming on a back nine of 29 and on the par-four 11th and 16th holes – to put him only one shot off the 19-under-par lead of Germany’s Alexander Knappe going into Sunday’s final round. The German posted a 66 on the same course.

“That was fun. It’s turned out pretty good. It was a good moving day. It was kind of surreal standing on the 17thtee and thinking I’ve had three eagles in this round, and after the start I had on Thursday here I am now in with a chance,” he said.

Indeed, it’s a remarkable turnaround for Burmester after he made a triple bogey seven on the first hole on Thursday when he hit two tee shots out of bounds.

“I was still half asleep coming in jet-lagged from America (where he played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour). Playing with Retief Goosen that first round certainly helped. He’s got one of the best mental games out there. He’s always had that. I fed off that and managed to keep grinding and finished that round under par.”

After turning in two under for his round on Saturday, Burmester says he knew he needed something special to put him in with a chance of winning a tournament he’s always cherished and where he finished second in 2016.

“I thought I was going to have to have a good back nine to stand a chance in this tournament and I managed to throw in a 29 there.”

It was a back nine underpinned by those two eagles. On the par-four 11th he chipped in with a lob wedge, and on the par-four 16th he drove the green and holed a 25-foot putt.

“This is a tournament where I made my first cut as a professional, so I have great memories of this and hopefully on the back nine on Sunday I’ve got a chance.”

He currently shares second place with New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier, who signed for a 63 on the Outeniqua course.

And ahead of them, Knappe is equally driven to claim a title in a part of the world he calls his second home.

“Fancourt is my home base in the winter. I practice here and I love it,” he said.

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11th February 2022

Dimension Data lead is music to the ears of Saddier

By Michael Vlismas

GEORGE, Western Cape – Inspired by becoming a father for the first time, Frenchman Adrien Saddier hummed the same melody he uses to put his baby boy to sleep throughout his second-round 66 as he opened up a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt on Friday.

On a magnificent day on The Links, Saddier built on the shared lead he enjoyed overnight and pulled away from this field with a round in which he dropped only one shot and birdied four of his last six holes.

“I’m really happy. It was a great day. The conditions were perfect,” said Saddier, who has Germany’s Alexander Knappe as his nearest challenger on 13 under, followed by South Africans Jaco Ahlers and Jacques Blaauw as well as Spaniard Ivan Cantero Gutierrez on 11 under par.

Saddier has spent the last two months immersing himself in the joy of being a new dad with the birth of baby boy Nathan, and this is his first tournament back.

“I’m just enjoying my golf. If you enjoy it the result will come automatically. When I wait on the golf course I find myself singing the same melody I sing to my baby boy when I help him to fall asleep,” he said. He also has a tattoo on his left forearm of three bears. Or rather, pappa bear, and then mamma bear with baby bear on her back and looking up to the stars.

Saddier and his amateur partner, former Springbok rugby player Odwa Ndungane, also share the lead in the amateur team competition on 18 under par.

“I enjoyed having Odwa as my amateur partner. I asked him a few questions about the mental side of the game and how he handled it when he was at the top of his sport, and he was really nice about the advice he gave me,” said Saddier.

Behind him, Ahlers has worked himself into a promising position going into the weekend of a tournament he won in 2018 and finished 10th in last year. He posted a solid second round of 69 on The Links, even though he was less impressed with the two bogeys he made on the par fives.

“I’ll take it, but I just didn’t feel it was good enough with the weather being as good as it was, and two sixes on par fives is just not going to cut it,” he said. “I made some silly mistakes, so we’ll go fix that. I didn’t see anybody getting to 16 under already so that’s good golf, and I’ll just have to put the foot on the gas and just keep going and hopefully not make silly mistakes.”

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10th February 2022

Goosen surprises young guns in Dimension Data Pro-Am

GEORGE, Western Cape – For double US Open champion Retief Goosen, the hardest part of his 67 to place the 53-year-old only four shots off the first-round lead in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt was the 5am wake-up call on Thursday.

Goosen, who just happened to be in George for a charity golf event when he was invited to play this week, turned back the clock with a round on the Outeniqua that puts him well in the chase for a title he won back in 2002.

New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier and Frenchman Adrien Saddier are the men he is chasing at the top of the leaderboard on nine under par. Saddier shot 63 on the Outeniqua, while Hillier produced a magnificent 64 on the treacherous Links which he described as one of the best rounds of his life. They are one clear of the field, with 2018 champion Jaco Ahlers just two off the lead.

Goosen takes on the Links for his second round, but for now, he’s more than happy with his start to this prestigious pro-am tournament and against the brightest young stars of both the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour.

“It wasn’t easy getting up this morning. A 5am call is not really a PGA Tour Champions wake-up call. We’re normally kind of 11am for a 1pm start. But the conditions were perfect early in the morning and I started off nicely with a couple of birdies. I had a lot of birdie chances but left them short. It could’ve been a lower round, but I played well today,” he said of a round that started with two consecutive birdies and included a 30-foot putt for eagle on the 17th.

“Not bad for my second event of the year and after should surgery last November, which put me out for seven weeks. The shoulder feels good so that’s pleasing,” he said.

At the top of the leaderboard, Hillier – who finished eighth here in 2020 – was understandably delighted with his 64 on the Links. “I wanted to make the most of the benign conditions. It was just one of those days where everything just seemed to go my way. But a 64 on the Links, that’s right up there with my best rounds – definitely. I just made sure I was in the right positions and managed to execute. But it’s probably one of the better rounds of my life,” he said.

And co-leader Saddier is loving his first trip to Fancourt.

“It was a good start. Everything clicked today. I started with birdies at the first and second and I played really solid on the back nine. I hit it close, made the putts, and it was a great day of golf.”

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Top pros and sports stars gather for Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt

GEORGE, Western Cape – Fancourt was bathed in sunshine on Wednesday and with its three golf courses in immaculate condition against the backdrop of the Outeniqua mountain range as the Dimension Data Pro-Am, one of the showpiece tournaments of the Sunshine Tour, welcomed a stellar field of professionals and amateurs for this week’s tournament.

The 2022 edition of this historic tournament – which has been won by stars of the game such as Mark McNulty, Nick Price, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout – has drawn a world-class field of sports stars that will compete alongside the finest young professionals on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour from Thursday to Sunday.

Springbok rugby’s finest in Francois Pienaar, John Smit, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger Snr. and Schalk Burger Jnr., Jean de Villiers, Odwa Ndungane and Nick Mallett are joined by cricket greats Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith as well as Bafana Bafana great Jimmy Tau as amongst the glittering array of amateurs in the field.

So much so that this is one of those rare weeks on the golf calendar when the professionals are the ones who are a little starstruck by their playing partners.

“You can definitely get quite starstruck here with all the sports stars. It’s always a great week to spend with them catching up. It was two years ago that I was paired with Francois Pienaar and we had such a great time together,” said Sunshine Tour professional Anton Haig.

“You really can’t get a more beautiful place in the world to play golf. Dimension Data and all the sponsors always put on a great show this week in what is also an important week for us in terms of some good world ranking points on offer. I’m taking up membership of the Challenge Tour so this starts an important run of Challenge Tour events on the Sunshine Tour for me.”

Fellow Sunshine Tour professional Trevor Fisher Jnr. was equally excited about the week to come.

“It’s one of the best weeks we have on the Sunshine Tour. The golf courses are always great and the setting we have here is world class. It’s also great fun with the amateurs. I’ll take Jacques Kallis this year for sure – he’s quite handy off his handicap.”