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19th April 2022

Altron Big Easy Tour a major boost for South African pro golf development

The Big Easy Tour, the official development tour of the Sunshine Tour, has announced that leading technology company Altron will be its new title sponsor as part of a substantial investment in the next generation of South African professional golf talent, including more tournaments and greater prize money.

The Altron Big Easy Tour will feature 10 tournaments in a schedule that will run from May to September, and which will also include record prize money for the final two tournaments of the season.

The prize money for each 36-hole tournament will be R150 000, which is an increase of R50 000 per tournament from the 2021 season. But the final two tournaments of the season – The Playoff and The Final to be played over 54 holes – will offer record prize money for the Tour of R250 000 and R300 000 respectively.

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said: “We are delighted to announce this new era for the Altron Big Easy Tour which represents significant growth for our main development tour, and which offers incredible playing opportunities for those golfers wishing to graduate to the Sunshine Tour.”

“The Altron Big Easy Tour is the first step that an aspiring South African professional golfer will take on the global pathway that includes the Sunshine Tour and our associations with the Challenge Tour and DP World Tour.”

Matthew Klaas, Acting Managing Director of Altron Systems Integration, said: “As Altron we are passionate about our communities and the potential of all our people. We are, therefore, proud to be able to create the opportunity for a rising young South African professional golfer to be able to aspire to a place on the Sunshine Tour and a successful career in the game.”

The Playoff will feature the top 50 players on the Altron Big Easy Tour Order of Merit competing for R250 000 in prize money.

The top 30 players on the Order of Merit after The Playoff will qualify for The Final during which they will compete for R300 000 in prize money.

All of the tournaments will be played in Gauteng.

The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout amongst its former Order of Merit winners.

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11th April 2022

Schwartzel takes the positives from The Masters

As Charl Schwartzel reflected on his best Major finish in the last four years with his top-1o finish at The Masters, he could do so with a sense that everything he’s been working on is starting to show progress.

Schwartzel closed with a 74 that wasn’t his finest performance at this year’s Masters. But it was good enough to secure him a confidence-boosting 10th place on level par overall.

He finished 10 strokes behind winner Scottie Scheffler. The American closed with a 71 to win his first green jacket and first Major by three shots over a charging Rory McIlroy on the final day at Augusta National Golf Club.

But Schwartzel, although well aware of the work that still lies ahead for him, was well pleased to find himself back in the conversation again at Majors.

“Augusta will always be special,” he told reporters after his final round.

“Every time I arrive here, that first drive down Magnolia Lane, there are very good memories. Even now looking out over the special place this is, for me 2011 was a dream come true and a life-changing experience, and I was very blessed to have achieved that.”

As he reflected on his final round, Schwartzel said he wished his putter could have matched the great mental space he was in.

“The two birdies at the end made it feel a little better. I kept putting poorly, so I was just struggling. But the two birdies helped, and overall it was probably the best week I’ve had this year, so that’s a good sign. Mentally I was in a good space, and the swing felt really good. Even through the struggles today, it wasn’t horrible. This golf course is unforgiving.

“I had a lot of par putts from, say, six feet, and I was just putting badly. I didn’t make any of them. But a top ten, at the beginning of the week and the way I’ve been playing, I probably would have taken it. Good signs.”

Christiaan Bezuidenhout finished tied 44th on nine over par.

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10th April 2022

Schwartzel ready for Masters Sunday

South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel enters the final round of The Masters seven shots off the lead held by world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Schwartzel posted a third round of 73 to place him on two under and chasing the nine under par lead of Scheffler, who leads by three shots over his nearest challenger Cameron Smith.

“It wasn’t easy. I thought I played exceptionally well. If you count the fringe on 18 as a green hit, that would have been 15 greens in regulation for me. Just had a real poor day with the putter. Normally in the cold I struggle, and today I played beautifully. So just a bad day with the putter,” said Schwartzel.

The winner of the 2011 Masters refuses to accept that it’s a fait accompli that Scheffler will claim this year’s green jacket.

“You know, Scottie’s playing good golf, but there’s 18 holes to go. You never know. I’m going to have to shoot something around the 66 mark, I would think, to maybe have a chance. Then it’s up to him what he does. If he plays well tomorrow, then he determines his own destiny.

“It’s a tough course and a lot of things can happen, as we’ve seen guys shoot 50 on the back nine. This course gives you some opportunities if you can get in the right spots. So I’ll keep swinging and create some opportunities just to see if I can make some putts.”

Christiaan Bezuidenhout is tied 34th on five over par, while Tiger Woods is tied 41st on seven over par.

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9th April 2022

Schwartzel chasing Masters glory

Charl Schwartzel heads into the weekend of The Masters tied for second place and five strokes off the lead of American Scottie Scheffler.

Schwartzel signed for a second round of 69 that lifted him to three under par overall, with Scheffler leading the field on eight under following his 67.

The South African, who is chasing a second Masters title after his win in 2011, forms part of a strong chasing pack of Major champions including Open champion Shane Lowry and defending Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who are also on three under.

“It was tough. I think we had a little fortune this morning. It was very cold, but we didn’t deal with a lot of wind for the first five or six holes. It started picking up around seven and eight, and then the back nine it got hard. I must be honest. These two rounds are some of the two best ball-striking rounds I’ve had in a very long time,” said Schwartzel.

Scheffler’s five-stroke lead ties the Masters record for the biggest 36-hole lead as he joins Jordan Spieth (2015), Raymond Floyd (1976), Jack Nicklaus (1975), Herman Keiser (1946) and Harry Cooper (1936) with this honour.

Tiger Woods is currently tied 19th having made his 22nd consecutive cut in The Masters, and is one shy of the record of 23 held by Gary Player and Fred Couples.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout is the only other South African to make the cut and heads into the weekend tied 16th on level par.

The cut fell on four over, with Erik van Rooyen and Garrick Higgo missing out on eight over and 11 over respectively.

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8th April 2022

Oosthuizen withdraws from Masters

Louis Oosthuizen has withdrawn from the Masters prior to his second round because of injury.

Oosthuizen was in the same group as Tiger Woods and shot an opening 76.

Augusta National Golf Club confirmed on Friday that the South African, who finished second in the 2012 Masters when he lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff, had withdrawn.

“Due to injury, Louis Oosthuizen has official withdrawn from the Masters Tournament prior to the start of his second round,” the statement said.

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6th April 2022

Stella Artois tees off new era for Stella Artois Players Championship

The Sunshine Tour today announced that Stella Artois will be the new headline sponsor of the prestigious R2-million Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Golf Estate from 21-24 April.

The new three-year sponsorship of one of the leading tournaments on the Sunshine Tour also includes Stella Artois becoming an official partner of the Sunshine Tour as the official beer provider.

As the penultimate tournament of the Sunshine Tour season, the Stella Artois Players Championship plays a key role in the final Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, which concludes with the season-ending Tour Championship a week later.

This year it will take on even greater significance in the race to be crowned the leading golfer at the end of the season, with the winner of the 2021/22 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit receiving an exemption to play in the 2022 US Open.

“We are delighted to increase our association with the Sunshine Tour through the sponsorship of the Stella Artois Players Championship, and in so doing we are able to align to the premium lifestyle of golf. Stella Artois exists to inspire consumers to savour life’s moments together and what better way to do this than to take a day out and spend it on a golf course. We are also inspired by the new premium audience that is being attracted to the game, and we will ensure that their experience is elevated throughout the tournament with ice-cold Stella Artois available at all the tournaments across the country,” said Estee Burger, Marketing Manager of Stella Artois.

“It is also a pleasure for us to become an official partner of the Sunshine Tour. Stella Artois is built on a legacy of craftmanship over 600 years old. The Sunshine Tour has a similar legacy of greatness showcased in the craftmanship of generations of world-class professional golfers, and we’re proud to support this.”

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said: “We’re extremely grateful to welcome Stella Artois to the Sunshine Tour family. The Stella Artois Players Championship occupies a key place on our schedule as the penultimate tournament of our season. And to also welcome a brand of the quality of Stella Artois to our list of partners is another reflection that Greatness Begins Here on the Sunshine Tour, and which is also reflected in the companies we are proud to call our official partners.”

Jaco Prinsloo will return as the defending champion in this new era of the Stella Artois Players Championship after winning last year’s tournament in a playoff with Jake Roos and Daniel van Tonder.

Photo (From left to Right): Mcebisi Mtshali, Marketing Manager of the Sunshine Tour; Estee Burger, Marketing Manager Stella Artois South Africa; and Ruan Kleynhans, High End Trade Marketing Manager for SAB, at Wednesday’s launch of the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Golf Estate. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

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5th April 2022

The Big 5 chasing Masters glory for South Africa

South Africa’s “Big Five” – Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Garrick Higgo and Erik van Rooyen – will begin the quest to add only the fourth green jacket to the country’s list of Major triumphs when The Masters tees off at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday.

To date, Gary Player (1961, 1974 and 1978), Trevor Immelman (2008) and Schwartzel (2011) have written their names into Masters history.

The South African challenge this year represents a tantalising mix of experience and a new generation of stars.

Oosthuizen is the highest ranked South African in the field at 14th in the world and also playing in his 14th Masters. His playoff defeat to Bubba Watson in 2012 is still the closest a South African has come to winning the Masters in the last decade. Oosthuizen has had six runners-up finishes in the Majors – two of which came in a strong Major season for him last year where he finished in the top three in three of the four Majors.

Schwartzel is the only one in the group who has pulled on a green jacket in 2011. Bezuidenhout is playing in his third Masters, while Higgo is making his debut and Van Rooyen tees it up in his second Masters but having had to withdraw with an injury after his first round in 2020.

Bezuidenhout played in all four Majors for the first time in his career in 2021, and made the cut in all four which further strengthens the belief that he is the country’s next Major champion in waiting.

Schwartzel’s form may not be near what he would like it to be headed into this Major, but clearly something about Augusta National Golf Club keeps on inspiring him. In the last five editions of The Masters he may well have missed the cut twice, but he’s also finished third, tied 25th and tied 26th.

Higgo is playing in only the fourth Major of his career and has Gary Player’s endorsement as a future Major champion, while Van Rooyen missed the cut in all three Majors he qualified for in 2021 but has had a solid start to 2022 with a top-five finish in the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour and tied 13th in The Players Championship.

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3rd April 2022

Gradecki becomes first foreign winner of Limpopo Championship

 MOOKGOPHONG, Limpopo – Poland’s Mateusz Gradecki became the first international winner of the Limpopo Championship when he won by three strokes at the Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate on Sunday.

Gradecki closed with a bogey-free 66 that was the lowest round on a difficult day of weather interruptions and rain in the bushveld, and finished on 19 under par overall to break the South African hold on this tournament since it first teed off in 2019.

Gradecki was three strokes clear of the field and standing over his winning five-foot putt on the final green when the hooter sounded for yet another suspension because of dangerous weather. It was the second weather suspension of a tricky day for the field. When play resumed, Gradecki rolled in his final putt for par and victory.

It was an incredible victory for a player who overcame a five-shot deficit at the start of the final round to win, and who had missed the cut in three of his last five tournaments in South Africa.

“I just wanted to keep doing the same things I’d been doing over the previous three rounds,” he said.

“I knew I was playing well and I just needed to keep calm and stay in the moment. I knew my game was good enough to do it. I’m really pleased with the way I played.”

South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis had another good finish as he secured second place on 16 under par with a final round of 70. Germany’s Nick Bachem finished third on 15 under par with a closing 69.

Gradecki’s putting made all the difference for him on the final day as he closed the gap between himself and the overnight leader Oliver Hundebøll from Denmark.

“My putting is the main thing I’ve improved on from the previous weeks. I really didn’t putt well enough in the previous tournaments. My game was good enough, but the putter didn’t behave until today. This win really means a lot to me. I’m over the moon.”

The Limpopo Championship brought to a close this South African Swing on both the Challenge Tour and DP World Tour.

South Africa’s JC Ritchie retained his position at the top of the Road to Mallorca rankings following his two victories on this stretch in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and the Jonsson Workwear Open.

The Sunshine Tour will close out its current season with the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Country Club from 21-24 April followed by The Tour Championship at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate from 28 April to 1 May. – Michael Vlismas

 Photo Credit: Heinrich Helmbold /Sunshine Tour

 

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2nd April 2022

Hundebøll chasing SA glory again in Limpopo Championship

MOOKGOPHONG, Limpopo – Denmark’s Oliver Hundebøll is hunting his second victory on South African fairways and will take a four-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round of the Limpopo Championship at the Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate.

Hundebøll signed for a third round of 68 to take the lead on 18 under par, with South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis his nearest challenger on 14 under following a 67 on Saturday.

The Danish golfer won last month’s Mangaung Open in Bloemfontein for his first Challenge Tour victory. After a modest start in which he was one over for his round through eight holes, Hundebøll found the inspiration he was looking for with a birdie on the ninth hole. He then birdied four of his first five holes on the back nine.

“I made a good birdie on the ninth and tried to play some good golf on the back nine. I rolled a really good putt in on the 11th for birdie and then I just kept hitting my approaches close and rolled some putts in,” he said.

“I’m really pleased with this round, especially after my 63 the day before. I just wanted to play my game today and see what happens.”

Hundebøll says he’s taken a lot of confidence from his victory in Bloemfontein.

“After that win it feels much easier to be at the top of the leaderboard and just play my game and not be nervous. I’m looking forward to the challenge of the final round. I’ll just keep focusing on my own game and see what happens.”

Du Plessis finds himself in contention once again in a wonderful run of form for him. In the last two months he’s found himself challenging for DP World Tour and Challenge Tour titles.

Luke Jerling, who also challenged for the Mangaung Open title before losing out to Hundebøll, is in the running again on 13 under par alongside fellow South African Pieter Moolman and Poland’s Mateusz Gradecki.   – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Heinrich Helmbold /Sunshine Tour

 

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1st April 2022

Easton leads SA charge in Limpopo Championship

MOOKGOPHONG, Limpopo – Bryce Easton leads the South African challenge headed into the weekend of the Limpopo Championship at the Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate.

Easton signed for a solid 67 in windy conditions at Euphoria on Friday to come through 36 holes of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament on 11 under par.

He is chasing the 14 under par lead of Denmark’s Oliver Hundebøll, who is seeking his second victory in South Africa after winning the Mangaung Open in March and who shot a 63 at the Koro Creek Bushveld Golf Estate, which is the other golf course that hosted the first two rounds of this tournament. Germany’s Nick Bachem is one shot off the lead after a 63 at Koro Creek. The final two rounds will be played solely at Euphoria.

Easton made eight straight pars and then an eagle on the ninth in what he felt was a strong front nine in some tricky conditions on Friday.

“It was very windy and the front nine played quite tricky for me, so I was very happy to get a bunch of pars and then get through that front nine before converting a few chances on the back,” he said.

The back nine saw him birdie three of his first four holes. He bogeyed the 16th but then took it back with a birdie on 17.

And he’s looking forward to the challenge he knows Euphoria will bring on the weekend.

“This is a big golf course. It’s a beast of a course actually and feels like a long day out there. But it’s also in the best shape that I’ve seen it for many years. The rough is up and if there is even a slight breeze like there was on Friday then it plays really tough. You can’t afford to miss the fairways. It’s a good test.”

Easton is chasing his first victory since 2018 as he juggles his Challenge Tour duties with a few starts on the main DP World Tour as well.

“It’s a long and gruelling season on the Challenge Tour so these opportunities at home are great. I also have some opportunities coming on the main DP World Tour.”

Heinrich Bruiners has also kept himself in the hunt on 10 under par following his 68 at a Euphoria golf course where he won in 2013. – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Sunshine Tour