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30th April 2022

Strydom leads chase to Tour Championship glory

KEMPTON PARK, City of Ekurhuleni – In the spirit of Africa’s great Serengeti, there was definitely a sense of survival of the fittest in Saturday’s tough third round of the Tour Championship at Serengeti Estates. And it’s a battle Tristen Strydom is busy winning at the moment.

Strydom ended a day of strong wind and some tricky pin placements on the challenging Serengeti Estate’s greens with a two-stroke lead on 15 under par. It came thanks to a round of 68 which he said was one of the best rounds of his career in these conditions.

“That was some of the toughest golf I’ve played in a very long time. The wind was up, the greens are fast, and there is just no shying away from it,” he said.

Behind him, his nearest challenger Pieter Moolman did just as well to stay in touch on 13 under with a 69.

“It was a challenge out there. Your ball striking has to be really good on this golf course when the wind blows because it can become very long, especially on the back nine,” he said.

George Coetzee came through 54 holes in third place on nine under par and as one of only 12 players in this 36-man field who are currently under par.

Both Strydom and Moolman are chasing maiden victories on the Sunshine Tour. Strydom has been in this position on a few occasions in what has been his most successful season to date, and he’s determined to apply those lessons on Sunday.

“I’m very excited for the final round. I’m going to have fun and give it my all. I love this game and it’s so nice to be able to compete with the some of the best on the Sunshine Tour,” he said.

Moolman has also impressed with his consistency and is relishing having a shot at this title.

“Anything can still happen and if the wind blows like it has it will get interesting. I’ve got 18 holes on Sunday and that’s 18 opportunities. I have a shot at a win. Tristen is playing well and he’s hitting the ball so solid, but I can only try my best,” he said. – Michael Vlismas.

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29th April 2022

Calderon leads Top 25 Q School graduates

Chile’s Matias Calderon won the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at the Heron Banks Golf and River Estate on Friday to continue his love with South African golf.

Calderon won the 2018 Eye of Africa PGA Championship, making him the first golfer from Chile to win one of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious titles.

Calderon and England’s Jake Bolton finished the regulation 72 holes tied for the lead on eight under par following respective final rounds of 68 and 65. Calderon then won with a par on the first playoff hole.

“First and foremost, I’m just happy to have secured my Sunshine Tour card. That’s the main objective of the week. But coming down the final stretch I wanted to get the best result that I could, and fortunately for me that was a win,” said Calderon.

“I came to South Africa when I just turned professional and I’ve been around for a few years now. There are very good tournaments here on the Sunshine Tour and the people are very friendly. Overall the organisation of tournaments on the Sunshine Tour is great and I really enjoy it here.”

South Africa’s Sean Cronje finished third on seven under par with a closing 70.

The top 25 and ties qualified for the Sunshine Tour next season. – Michael Vlismas.

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Strydom hits the front with a 64 in Tour Championship

Tristen Strydom will take a one-stroke lead into the weekend of the Sunshine Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship following a magnificent eight-under-par 64 in tricky conditions at Serengeti Estates on Friday.

Strydom’s bogey-free 64 was a remarkable round of golf considering the windy conditions and the challenging Serengeti greens. It lifted him to 11 under par overall and one stroke clear of Pieter Moolman, who signed for a 68 to keep himself in contention.

Strydom, who lives at Serengeti, showed just how comfortable he feels on this golf course when he managed to make par on the par-five eighth after finding the water there. Such was the quality of his golf that it prompted his playing partner, Michael Hollick, to declare that it was the best round of golf he’d witnessed in the last 10 years.

“I played beautifully tee to green. I gave myself a lot of good opportunities and fortunately took advantage of them. I really feel comfortable with the golf course and it’s such a nice environment that we’re playing in. I’m just having fun and playing almost carefree golf,” said Strydom, who didn’t seem to mind the difficult conditions.

“The greens and the wind are the greatest challenge here. The wind normally picks up in the afternoon and they can tuck the flags on these greens if they want to. That makes it challenging, but I look forward to that challenge.”

George Coetzee managed to work his way up to seven under overall through 36 holes, and which puts him in third place. But Strydom has learned enough to know that he’ll need to keep pushing forward over the next two days and not get comfortable.

“It can change quickly out here. There are a bunch of good players down the leaderboard and they’ll come out with guns blazing on the weekend. So hopefully I can keep the momentum,” he said.

With this being the final tournament of the current season, Strydom will wrap up his best season since turning professional in 2017. He’s currently 12th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

“It feels good to be where I am. I had a rough start to my career and learned a lot in my first year. I set myself goals at the beginning of this season and fortunately it’s gone my way. I’m very pleased with where I’m at. But I’m not satisfied. I can still be better and work harder.” – Michael Vlismas.

Photo Credit: Heinrich Helmbold /Sunshine Tour

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28th April 2022

Moolman makes his move in Tour Championship

KEMPTON PARK, City of Ekurhuleni – Pieter Moolman was the only player in the field to not drop a single shot on a difficult opening day of the Tour Championship at Serengeti Estates as he took the lead with a six-under-par 66 in the Sunshine Tour’s season finale on Thursday.

Although Moolman admitted he didn’t have his best swing out there it didn’t show as he finished two strokes clear of the field, with his nearest challenger being Trevor Fisher Jnr. who made one of the few eagles on the day during his 68.

George Coetzee, Tristen Strydom and Luke Jerling finished the first round tied for third place on three under par.

It was a tricky opening day where a combination of wind and challenging greens kept most of the field in check.

“I kept it pretty solid. My swing isn’t really there but I got a bit lucky with my lies in the rough and chipped and putted well. I’m very pleased. It’s always fun going bogey free,” said Moolman, who took a lot of confidence from his runner-up finish behind Dean Burmester in last November’s South African PGA Championship.

“I’ve played well this season and a win this week would certainly be the cherry on top. That second in the SA PGA Championship did a lot for me. It gave me good confidence for the rest of the season. I had a seventh-place finish in the Limpopo Championship as well. I seem to be moving in the right direction, but there is always one day that’s a bit off for me. If I can get over that one day it will lead to much better results.”

Behind him is plenty of experience in Fisher Jnr. and Coetzee.

“I’m hitting the ball well and four under is always good around here,” said Fisher Jnr., whose eagle on the par-five eighth was one of only two eagles in the first round.

“That was nice. I holed my bunker shot which is always nice. Overall I played solid. The greens are tricky here and you need to be patient. The course is playing tougher than usual, but it’s a good test of golf.”

Justin Harding and Wilco Nienaber both finished the day with rounds of level par, while JC Ritchie signed for an uncharacteristic 78. – Michael Vlismas.

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27th April 2022

Tour Championship ends record season for Sunshine Tour

KEMPTON PARK, City of Ekurhuleni – The Sunshine Tour this week celebrates the end of one of its most successful seasons in history with the Tour Championship which tees off at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Thursday.

JC Ritchie, Wilco Nienaber, George Coetzee and Justin Harding headline the field for a Tour Championship that was last played in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and which Garrick Higgo won on his journey to becoming South Africa’s latest PGA Tour star.

The 2021/2022 season was a groundbreaking one in all respects as the Sunshine Tour concluded a landmark partnership with the DP World Tour, significantly enhanced its longstanding relationship with broadcaster SuperSport, grew its list of sponsors and Tour partners, and expanded its schedule with a host of new events.

Another major new incentive will play out this week when the overall winner of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit at the end of this tournament is rewarded with a place in the US Open in June.

The expanded DP World Tour partnership included the addition of a further two DP World Tour co-sanctioned tournaments in South Africa for a current total of five.

This partnership also brought with it an injection of a host of new Challenge Tour events in South Africa and which made for a strong South African Swing of six events on the Challenge Tour. JC Ritchie took full advantage and won two of these to currently lead the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca rankings. The benefit for South African professionals was evident in the fact that after this South African Swing, 10 South Africans were ranked in the top 20. The top 20 at the end of the Challenge Tour season will gain promotion to the main DP World Tour.

The enhanced broadcast partnership with SuperSport has been one of the main drivers of the Tour’s growth and includes an even more comprehensive offering with live coverage of the majority of Sunshine Tour tournaments.

The Tour’s growth attracted new brands such as Jonsson Workwear, Stella Artois, Distell, ProItUp, 30South and Jaguar Land Rover. And the Tour even changed its corporate identity as it moved from its previous blue colours to the green and gold that is so iconic of South African sport, and which also reflected the new slogan it unveiled that “Greatness Begins Here”.

According to Commissioner Thomas Abt, the Tour’s growth was based on a clear message coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown that, “We’re open for business.”

“We came out of lockdown and showed that we were a Tour that could play again in a safe and responsible manner. We sent a clear message to the market that the Sunshine Tour was open to any way you as a brand wanted to step into the golf space and find value. We’ve created more tournaments and more opportunities. A South African golfer can now see the progression from playing well on the Sunshine Tour and then moving to the Challenge Tour, playing well on the Challenge Tour and then moving to the DP World Tour. But we’re working with a vision that we can do more. Our 2022/23 season will potentially have over 35 tournaments. It’s incredibly exciting.” – Michael Vlismas

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24th April 2022

Ahlers bags 10th title with Stella Artois Players Championship win

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – Jaco Ahlers claimed his 10th Sunshine Tour victory when he beat Ockie Strydom in a playoff for the Stella Artois Players Championship at the Dainfern Golf Estate on Sunday, and a week before his current win exemption category on the Tour was due to end.

Ahlers won with a birdie on the second playoff hole. His playoff experience certainly proved crucial as he has now won half of his 10 titles in playoffs. Ahlers has also now won five of the seven playoffs he’s been involved in on the Sunshine Tour.

“I’ve had a bit of experience with playoffs. It’s really nice to get this win,” said Ahlers, who was rewarded with one of the most unique trophies on the Sunshine Tour in the shape of a Stella Artois beer tap.

“I actually asked the Stellas Artois people whether it was a working beer tap because this trophy is going to look great in my bar. But it’s just so good to win. My win exemption was going to end in the final tournament of the season next week so the timing couldn’t be more perfect, and especially with me now having an Asian Tour card and I can also focus my efforts there.”

For the second year in succession this tournament was decided by a playoff as Ahlers and Strydom finished the regulation 72 holes tied for the lead on 18 under par. Both golfers had the chance to win it in regulation though, and both missed the very makeable birdie putts they had on the par-five 18th on their way to respective final rounds of 66.

Both birdied the 18th on the first playoff hole, with Strydom escaping with a lucky bounce after he pulled his drive and it hit a tree and kicked back towards the fairway.

Playing the 18th for a second time, Ahlers hit the green with his second while Strydom finished just off the left fringe. Ahlers holed his birdie putt to put the pressure on his playing partner. Strydom opted to chip and although he came inches close to holing out, his ball ran 10 feet past and he was unable to hole the birdie putt coming back.

“My short game was good all week. My ball striking not so much, but I suppose standing here at the end of it all is what counts the most,” said Ahlers, who made a big putt on the 17th to tie for the lead with Strydom.

“I said to my caddie that if we can birdie 17 and 18 we might be in with a chance. I wasn’t able to birdie 18 in regulation, but then again, standing here is what counts.”

Tristen Strydom, Estiaan Conradie and JJ Senekal shared third place on 17 under par, while Neil Schietekat shot through the field with a final round of 63 to finish tied ninth.

The Sunshine Tour heads to the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate this week for the season-ending Tour Championship. – Michael Vlismas.

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23rd April 2022

Top trio chasing glory in Stella Artois Players Championship

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – Jaco Ahlers, JJ Senekal and Ockie Strydom have set up a thrilling finale to the Stella Artois Players Championship as they head into Sunday’s final round in a three-way tie for the lead on 13 under par.

The trio are one shot clear of Estiaan Conradie and Rourke van der Spuy, while Luke Jerling produced a scintillating 62 to climb to 10 under par overall.

Senekal had a terrific run of four birdies and an eagle over the turn which carried him into a share of the lead as he signed for a 67. Ahlers produced a solid 69 to take his share of the lead, and Strydom – who led by two going into the third round – birdied the last for a 71 to keep himself in contention.

But apart from Jerling’s incredible round, it was a far tougher day of scoring at Dainfern than in the previous rounds.

“It was a lot windier and the greens have started firming up quite a bit. If you keep missing it on the wrong side of the flag you can have quite a difficult time,” said Ahlers.

As a nine-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, Ahlers is hoping his experience will make the difference in the final round.

“It’s always good to lead, but I feel like today could have been so much more different. I hit good putts but they just didn’t go in. I don’t think I need to look too much into it. I had four lip-outs and a few other putts that missed by fractions, so I’ll just put it down to being one of those days.”

Ahlers will be seeing out the Sunshine Tour season with this week’s tournament and then next week’s season-ending Tour Championship before he heads off to Korea for his Asian Tour duties.

“It’s a good two weeks these. If you do well you can jump a few places on the Order of Merit, although that number one spot (currently held by Shaun Norris) is pretty much out of our reach. But it’s a good two weeks to end the season with.” – Michael Vlismas

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22nd April 2022

Strydom hits the front at Dainfern

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – Ockie Strydom played with the freedom of being pain-free after a back injury and earned himself a two-stroke lead going into the weekend of the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Golf Estate.

Strydom signed for a second round of 63 that carried him to 13 under par on Friday. His nearest challenger is Jaco Ahlers on 11 under after a 67. Keith Horne and defending champion Jaco Prinsloo are well placed on 10 under par.

But as much as Strydom’s aware of how much golf is still left to be played in this tournament, he is simply relishing not having to struggle with back pain.

“It was fun out there. I’m pain free and loving it. I’ve had back injuries for a long time and after the Limpopo Championship I went to see a specialist. I didn’t need surgery, but I had a procedure and I can’t tell you how much fun it is to play golf without pain and feel like the body can move in the position you need it to. It’s just been a joy to play golf again because I know my golf is on form at the moment,” said Strydom.

His putter was also on form on Friday, including a 25-footer for eagle on the 18th.

“It’s nice to roll in some putts for a change. I’ve been struggling with my putting but have been working hard on it.”

Much like last year, the scoring has once again been low in this tournament, but not as low as Strydom expected it to be.

“It’s not a long golf course and last year it felt like some of the guys were going crazy around here. This year it’s a bit different with all the rain we’ve had. It’s a lot softer but the greens are still quick. They’re extremely fast and I think over the weekend it will be survival of the fittest out there.” – Michael Vlismas

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21st April 2022

Muthiya brews up a 63 to lead Stella Artois Players Championship

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – Zambian professional Madalitso Muthiya opened with a birdie and an eagle in his first two holes on his way to an eight-under-par 63 and the first-round lead in the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Golf Estate on Thursday.

Muthiya’s fast start to this Sunshine Tour event included another birdie at the fourth and he dropped only one shot in a solid round that sees him one stroke clear of the field.

“I played exceptionally well. I hit good tee shots and iron shots and putted well. I’m pretty excited about this start,” said Muthiya.

Jaco Ahlers, Tristen Strydom and Dylan Naidoo are his nearest challengers following their rounds of 64.

Rising star Luca Filippi also made a positive start with his six-under-par 65 and continues his good form in a year where he’s only missed two cuts.

Muthiya’s last and to date only victory on the Sunshine Tour came in the 2016 Vodacom Origins of Golf Wild Coast, which made him the first Zambian professional to win on the Tour.

He’s come close to ending that drought with a second place in last year’s SunBet Challenge at Sun City. In December 2018 he almost added his name to the prestigious South African Open trophy when he challenged for this title at Randpark before losing out to Louis Oosthuizen and finishing tied seventh overall.

“I feel like I’ve been playing well throughout the course of this year but my putter has let me down. It’s not that I’m necessarily hitting bad putts, but sometimes you go through a season where you just don’t make putts. It’s been frustrating for me because it came around the time of the Challenge Tour events. So I’m pretty pleased that the putts have started to drop this week,” Muthiya said.

Behind him, Muthiya has the experience of nine-time Sunshine Tour winner Ahlers, who didn’t drop a single shot in his opening round. And alongside Ahlers is the youth of Strydom and Naidoo.

Strydom in particular has been pushing hard for a breakthrough victory on the Sunshine Tour. He has four second-place finishes, most notably when he recently finished runner-up in the Challenge Tour co-sanctioned Mangaung Open in Bloemfontein.

Defending champion Jaco Prinsloo is four shots off the lead following a 67, while multiple DP World Tour champion George Coetzee struggled on day one with a round of two-over 73. – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

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20th April 2022

Sunshine Tour pros raise a toast to greatness in Stella Artois Players Championship

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – The R2-million Stella Artois Players Championship which tees off at Dainfern Golf Estate on Thursday couldn’t come at a more important time for Sunshine Tour professionals with dreams of greatness, particularly US Open greatness.

The second edition of this tournament, which this year welcomes a new title sponsor in Stella Artois, is the penultimate event of the Sunshine Tour’s 2021/22 season.

The current season ends with The Tour Championship next week, and the number one golfer on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit at the end of the season will receive an exemption to play in the 2022 US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts in June.

At the moment, Shaun Norris comfortably leads the way on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit following his victory in the Steyn City Championship in March and will be hard to catch.

But with Norris not in the field this week, and depending on whether he tees it up in these next two tournaments and the similar movements of his nearest rivals Dean Burmester, Thriston Lawrence and Oliver Bekker, the chase for that number one spot and a US Open ticket could be an interesting one.

Multiple DP World Tour champion George Coetzee adds to the strength of the field this week, which includes seven of the top 20 players on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

Jaco Prinsloo returns as the defending champion at Dainfern this week following his playoff victory last year over Jake Roos and Daniel van Tonder, which went to three extra holes.

The win capped a golden few weeks for Prinsloo as he won twice in three starts on the Sunshine Tour. He also returns to a Dainfern course where he won the Gauteng Team Championship in 2020 with partner JC Ritchie.

“I love this golf course and the whole atmosphere here. This course gives you opportunities,” said Prinsloo.