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7th March 2022

Sunshine Tour Order of Merit champion guaranteed a US Open spot

The Sunshine Tour today announced that the winner of the 2021/22 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit will receive an exemption to play in the 2022 US Open, courtesy of the United States Golf Association (USGA).

The Sunshine Tour’s current season ends with The Tour Championship in early May, whereupon the leading professional on the final Order of Merit who is not already exempt for this Major will gain automatic entry to the 16-19 June US Open at The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts.

Should the leading player on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit already be exempt, the exemption will fall to the next leading player on the Order of Merit who is not yet exempt.

“We are extremely grateful to the United States Golf Association for this incredible incentive for our Sunshine Tour Order of Merit champion,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

“South Africa has a proud US Open record with victories by Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Through this exemption we can hopefully add to that number and continue to show that greatness does indeed begin on the Sunshine Tour.”

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Retief Goosen birdies the last to secure win at Hoag Classic

Retief Goosen holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker on the short par-4 first hole, birdied the next two and cruised to an 8-under 63 and a four-stroke victory Sunday in the Hoag Classic.

A stroke behind fellow South African star Ernie Els entering the round, Goosen pulled away quickly at Newport Beach Country Club in breezy but calmer conditions than the players faced Saturday.

After hitting his opening drive into the left bunker, Goosen’s long blast hit the flagstick and dropped in the cup without touching the green.

Goosen finished at 15-under 198. Coming off offseason shoulder surgery, the two-time U.S. Open champion won for the second time on the PGA TOUR Champions. He also won the 2019 SENIOR PLAYERS.

Goosen followed the early 4-under burst with a birdie on the par-4 sixth. He birdied the par-3 10th, rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 11th with birdies on the par-4 12th and par-5 15h and finished with 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

K.J. Choi was second after a 66.

Lee Janzen (69) and Stephen Ames (67) tied for third at 9 under. Doug Barron and Tim Petrovic each shot 67 to finish at 7 under.

Els was sixth at 6 under after a 73. He won the event in 2020 the last time it was played.

Bernhard Langer closed with a 70 to tie for eighth at 5 under. The 64-year-old German star, the 2008 winner, won the Chubb Classic two weeks ago in Florida for his 43rd PGA TOUR Champions title, two behind Hale Irwin for the record. Langer is the oldest winner in PGA TOUR Champions history. – PGA Tour Champions

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6th March 2022

Dane Hundeboll charges to maiden win in Mangaung Open

BLOEMFONTEIN – Denmark’s Oliver Hundeboll came like a bolt of lightning out of a dark Bloemfontein sky and struck with a final round of 66 to take victory in the inaugural Mangaung Open at the Bloemfontein Golf Club on Sunday.

With all eyes on the likes of Scotland’s Craig Ross and South Africans Luke Jerling, Tristen Strydom and Jbe Kruger as the most likely contenders for this title, Hundeboll came from five shots back on the final day and produced a strong back nine of 31 to take the victory on 21 under par.

His one-stroke victory earned him a maiden title on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, and made him yet another champion to come out of the famous Silkeborg Ry Golf Club in Denmark that is the home club of the country’s most famous golfer Thomas Bjørn, and also the regular golf club of the twins Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard.

But it was a victory made all the more surprising by the fact that Hundeboll missed the cut in the previous two Challenge Tour events on South African fairways.

“I just wanted to try and put a good score out there today,” Hundeboll said of his mindset going into the final round and in a tournament where he and the rest of the field were challenged by weather delays and a wet final day.

“The weather was like Denmark actually – good weather in Denmark. So I am used to this kind of weather. After nine holes I wasn’t even thinking about the win but just focused on a strong finish.”

With the title looking to be decided between the trio of Jerling, Strydom and Ross, all of their challenges faltered over the closing holes.

Jerling bogeyed the par-five 18th, which cost him a maiden professional victory. Strydom bogeyed the short but tricky 16th, and a birdie at 17 and par at 18 was just not enough for him either as they both shared second place on 20 under par. And Ross came home with a bogey, double-bogey and birdie finish to drop to a share of fourth place.

Hundeboll birdied the 18th to cap off a great back-nine charge on his way to victory.

“The birdie putt on 18 was unbelievable. But overall I’d just like to thank the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour for these tournaments in South Africa. It’s been such a nice experience for me to come here for the first time. I’ve done a bit of sightseeing in South Africa. It’s such a nice country,” he said.

The Sunshine Tour now shifts its co-sanctioning status to the main DP World Tour over the next two weeks with the hosting of two new events, the MyGolfLife Open hosted by Pecanwood, followed by the Steyn City Championship at The Club at Steyn City. – Michael Vlismas

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5th March 2022

Kruger’s course-record 61 puts him in the hunt in Mangaung Open

BLOEMFONTEIN – Jbe Kruger shot a course-record 11-under-par 61 at Bloemfontein Golf Club on Saturday to place him one stroke off the lead of the Mangaung Open before the third round was suspended because of dangerous weather conditions.

Kruger made it into the clubhouse on 18 under par shortly before play was suspended at 17:01 and then called off for the day. The third round will resume at 07:00 on Sunday.

Scotland’s Craig Ross currently leads the tournament on 19 under par and at nine under for this third round with two holes still to come. Spain’s Scott Fernandez joined Kruger on 18 under and with a third round of 63.

Kruger has been playing incredible golf of late. At last week’s Jonsson Workwear Open he carded a 29 on the back nine at Durban Country Club on his way to finishing 12th there. And then at a Bloemfontein Golf Club where he grew up, Kruger went on a run of nine birdies and an eagle that has set him up for another shot at victory on the Challenge Tour.

“I’m very happy. Finally I can get my name on this course record,” he said.

“I know the course well but I was battling to read the greens over the first couple of days. I just couldn’t remember the lines. Then slowly it started coming back to me. I also began to hit the ball better, and if you’re hitting fairways and greens then the pressure is off.”

It was those memories that came flooding back to him that also allowed him to play aggressive golf on a day of low scoring that saw Tristen Strydom shoot a 64 to see him well-placed on 16 under par, and Louis Albertse added a 63 to join him on that total.

“The greens here have always been soft. I remember that growing up here, so it’s always felt like I can attack them a bit more,” said Kruger.

After years of struggling to get his swing back to the natural one he had when he started the game, Kruger felt he’d truly turned a corner when he won the Gauteng Championship on the Sunshine Tour last year. But he’s not about to get ahead of himself as he looks to take another step up with a Challenge Tour victory.

“Sunday is a new day. Golf is golf and it’s a crazy game, so you just have to take it one shot at a time and see what the outcome is. But I wouldn’t be able to describe what it would mean for me to win here, because I’m from here. It would be a tremendous victory for me personally because it’s been a tough battle for me to get here.” – Michael Vlismas

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4th March 2022

Moolman makes his Mangaung Open move

BLOEMFONTEIN – Pieter Moolman put the weather disruptions behind him and forged a clear path to the top of the Mangaung Open leaderboard on Friday as he claimed a one-stroke clubhouse lead going into the weekend of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.

After Thursday’s suspensions, the weather again delayed the resumption of the first round on Friday morning. When it was finally completed there was no change to the top of the leaderboard, with South Africa’s Luke Jerling still in a three-way tie for the lead with the Spanish duo of Alejandro Del Rey and Scott Fernandez on nine under par.

The delayed second round then teed off, and Moolman produced a solid bogey-free 66 at Schoeman Park Golf Club to take the lead on 13 under par and set the clubhouse target for the remainder of the field, who will have to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning.

Jerling and Del Rey, playing Schoeman Park Golf Club, had moved to 10 under through three holes of their second rounds when play ended for the day.

Moolman is currently one stroke clear of Lars van Meijel of The Netherlands, who signed for a 66 of his own at neighbouring Bloemfontein Golf Cub. The two courses share the first two rounds of this event, with the final two rounds played solely at Bloemfontein Golf Club.

It was a marathon day for Moolman on Friday as he finished off his first round of seven under and then went into the second round.

“I’m pretty tired. I played 28 holes today. I’ve been at the golf course for 13 hours so it’s not like a usual tournament,” he said.

“The only way you can deal with it is you just have to stick to your routine. It drains you a bit physically and mentally, but you just have to stay in the moment and I did that well.”

While happy with his result, Moolman said he’s still not quite where he wants to be in terms of his swing.

“I’m not really hitting the ball very well. I scrambled well and the putter was working, so that kept the momentum going.

“I feel like my form has been showing good signs for a while. But the last couple of weeks my swing hasn’t been where I would want it to be. I’m using the opportunities I’m getting, but I feel like I could have more out there.”

And yet he’s still top of the leaderboard and chasing a maiden Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour title.

“That’s a big goal. If you win on the Challenge Tour you gain a Challenge Tour card, so that’s a big step in your career. It opens up a lot of doors.” – Michael Vlismas

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3rd March 2022

Career-low 63 gives Jerling share of Mangaung Open lead

BLOEMFONTEIN – South Africa’s Luke Jerling is in a three-way tie for the first-round clubhouse lead of the Mangaung Open after recording his lowest ever round as a professional on a golf course he’s hardly ever played as a professional.

The left-hander opened with a nine-under-par 63 at Bloemfontein Golf Club on Thursday to secure himself a share of the clubhouse lead with the Spanish duo of Alejandro Del Rey and Scott Fernandez, who also both played Bloemfontein Golf Club. The round was suspended shortly after 1:20pm because of dangerous weather. Play resumed at 4pm before another suspension at 4:34pm. The first round will now be completed on Friday morning before the start of the second round.

The first two rounds of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour event are shared between Bloemfontein Golf Club and neighbouring Schoeman Park Golf Club, with the final two rounds played solely at Bloemfontein Golf Club.

Jerling and his co-leaders are currently two strokes clear of the rest of the field. The in-form JC Ritchie, seeking his third consecutive victory this week, and home favourite Wilco Nienaber both opened with rounds of five-under-par 67 at Schoeman Park Golf Club.

Jerling was pleased, if somewhat surprised, by his 63 on Thursday.

“It sort of came out of nowhere because I haven’t been playing too well,” he said. “A few loose shots have crept into my game over the last few weeks and I’ve been very hard on myself. I played a practice round at Schoeman Park and didn’t play well at all. Then I went to the range and after about 20 minutes I just packed it in and decided to kind of just stop worrying about it. I think I was getting in my own way a bit. So on Thursday I came in with a more relaxed mindset, and it’s nice to prove to myself that my game is definitely still there.”

After holing an eight-footer for par on the first which he said could’ve decided the round right there, Jerling had a strong stretch of three birdies and an eagle in five holes on the front nine, followed by a further four birdies on the back.

“I missed a short eagle putt on the third, but I think the birdie on the third and then fourth holes, and then the eagle on the fifth really set the tone for my round. My iron play was definitely good.”

Apart from a junior interprovincial tournament and the 2016 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Bloemfontein Golf Club, Jerling has no other previous experience of this course or neighbouring Schoeman Park.

“Although they’re right next door to each other they seem to have a different character about them. Bloemfontein Golf Club seems to allow you to hit driver a lot more, while Schoeman Park has a few more quirky holes where I’d probably hit irons off the tee about five or six times. The greens at Schoeman Park also seem a bit softer.”

The good start has given Jerling plenty of confidence to now build on this rather than have to play catch-up after day one.

“It’s nice to be up there again. I’ve finally put myself in a good position after round one.”

Belgium’s Kristof Ulenaers scored the first hole-in-one of this week’s tournament when he aced the 126-metre par-three eighth hole at Schoeman Park Golf Club with a wedge. It helped him to an opening score of two-under-par 70. – Michael Vlismas

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2nd March 2022

Ritchie chasing more history in Bloemfontein

BLOEMFONTEIN – This week’s Mangaung Open could be the scene of Challenge Tour history if JC Ritchie continues his winning streak when the $250 000 tournament tees off at Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park Golf Club on Thursday.

Ritchie has arrived in Bloemfontein as the hottest golfer on both tours with back-to-back wins in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and last week’s Jonsson Workwear Open. A third consecutive victory would be a first in Challenge Tour history and would also earn him automatic promotion to the DP World Tour.

“I thought about taking a week off this week to get a rest, but while I’m hot I’ll keep playing and see if I’ll be blessed to get another win,” said Ritchie.

“I’ll take this week as calmly as I can and get my energy levels back up because there are still a lot of events coming up. These Challenge Tour events on the Sunshine Tour are life-changing for us. Previously, the chances were quite limited for South Africans to get onto the DP World Tour. You had the big co-sanctioned tournaments and then qualifying school. For us to have another foot in the door and a few more stepping stones we can climb with this Challenge Tour series is life-changing for us.”

Ritchie is currently first on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca rankings. If he doesn’t claim another victory this week, a place inside the top 20 on the rankings at the end of the season will also secure him DP World Tour playing privileges.

That’s a goal Wilco Nienaber is also chasing after narrowly missing out last season. Nienaber is back in his hometown and will have plenty of local support as he seeks a second Challenge Tour title after winning last year’s Dimension Data Pro-Am. He narrowly missed out on a place inside the top 20 last year, finishing 21st.

Keenan Davidse will also be looking to push on from his fourth-place finish in last week’s Jonsson Workwear Open in Durban, and which has lifted him to inside the top 10 on the Road to Mallorca rankings.

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New SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa another big opportunity for SA’s young stars

RANDBURG – The inaugural SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa was launched in Randburg on Wednesday as one of the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour’s new co-sanctioned tournaments and forming part of the strong lineup of international tournaments to start the local golf season.

The $250 000 tournament will be played at both Zebula Golf Estate and Elements Private Golf Reserve from 24-27 March and will feature an impressive array of young Sunshine Tour and European stars in what is a key South African swing of tournaments in terms of the career development of the game’s next generation of stars.

“As the Skills Development Corporation (SDC) we’re delighted to play our part in what is essentially the development of, as well as an investment in, the skills of South Africa’s future golf stars,” Daniel Gibhard, CEO of The Skills Development Corporation, said at the launch held at the SDC Office Block in Randburg.

“At SDC we have witnessed first-hand the power of a high level of training combined with opportunity. The golfers that will take part in the inaugural SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa have spent years honing their skills, and we are delighted to be able to give them this opportunity to not only gain a foothold on the Challenge Tour, but to perhaps even go further and progress onto the DP World Tour and continue to showcase the phenomenal talent South Africa has.”

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said: “The Skills Development Organisation (SDC) plays a vital role in investing in and upskilling young South Africans. As the Sunshine Tour we echo this on our fairways and through our philosophy that ‘GreatnessBeginsHere’.

“The SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa has allowed us to put together a strong South African swing of seven Challenge Tour co-sanctioned events that offers our members vital playing opportunities, access to test themselves against international competition, and finally the opportunity to advance their careers and take another step to a place on the main DP World Tour.”

The first two rounds of the SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa will be shared by both Zebula Golf Estate and Spa and Elements Private Golf Reserve golf courses, with the final two rounds to be played solely at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa.

A daily maximum of 2 000 fully vaccinated spectators will be able to attend.

Photo (From Left to Right): Daniel Gibhard, CEO of The Skills Development Corporation (SDC); Francois Pulzone, Head of New Business Development at The Skills Development Corporation; and Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, at the official launch of the 2022 SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa and which will be co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour. Credit: Sunshine Tour.