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31st May 2022

Opportunity knocks for young Sunshine Tour stars on SunBet Series

SUN CITY, North West – A sense of opportunity abounds on the Sunshine Tour at the moment with three first-time winners in the first three tournaments of the new season, and heading into a SunBet Challenge at Sun City this week that could keep building on this trend.

The first of this season’s SunBet Series of five tournaments tees off at the famed Gary Player Country Club on Wednesday, which is where Garrick Higgo claimed his maiden Sunshine Tour title in this event in 2019.

Higgo has since rocketed to PGA Tour stardom, providing more than enough inspiration for the young stars in the field this week who are still looking for their breakthrough on the Tour.

South Africa’s Louis Albertse and Hennie O’Kennedy are amongst those pushing hard for a maiden title. In three tournaments this season O’Kennedy has finished no worse than seventh, while Albertse has been no worse than ninth in his past three events.

“I’m gaining confidence as I go along. I’ve tweaked a few things in my swing which I’m still working on. I’m still just trying to understand the game as best as I can. I’ve led at times in all three of the past tournaments so I’m just trying to stay patient,” said Albertse.

A full schedule on quality golf courses, highlighted by the Gary Player Country Club this week, certainly contributes to the sense that opportunity awaits on the local Tour.

American professional Kevin Rhoderick certainly thinks so. “The Sunshine Tour is a great place to play. The golf courses are great, and the Tour is really on the up with all the new partnerships and sponsorships. They’re doing a great job of giving us a platform to play.”

England’s Bradley Bawden shares this belief. “The Sunshine Tour is a growing tour and I see a lot of opportunity out here. You play a lot of great golf courses and I just feel like you’re going to improve out here.”

Chile’s Matias Calderon, winner of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and who won the South African PGA Championship in 2018, agrees. “I came here when I just turned pro and I’ve been around for a few years now. There are very good tournaments here, and the players and people are very welcoming to me as a foreigner. Overall the organization of the tournaments is great and I really enjoy it here. There are so many good golf courses here.” – Michael Vlismas

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30th May 2022

SunBet raises the stakes on the Sunshine Tour

The Sunshine Tour and SunBet today announced the launch of the SunBet series of tournaments as part of its 2022/23 season, and SunBet’s role as an official partner of the Tour.

SunBet is a premium South African betting site that offers a wide variety of the very best sporting events with competitive odds and over 10 000 live in-play events monthly.

The SunBet series will be played between June 2022 and May 2023 and will include five tournaments around the country in Sun City, Pretoria, Durban, the Wild Coast Sun and Gqeberha.

The series tees off this week with the SunBet Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City from 1-3 June.

“We’re delighted to announce the SunBet Series as part of a very strong 2022/23 season,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

“The Sunshine Tour has a longstanding relationship with Sun International and their outstanding golf courses where many of our tournaments are played. It’s very exciting to take this even further with SunBet as a partner to the Tour.”

Simon Gregory, General Manager of SunBet, said: “SunBet is deeply entrenched in the business of sport and the pleasure this brings to so many, and we’re very pleased to not only have a leading presence on the Sunshine Tour schedule, but also to partner with the Sunshine Tour and welcome South African professional golf into our portfolio.”

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29th May 2022

Germishuys mines a maiden win in Sishen Classic

KATHU, Northern Cape – Deon Germishuys has given everything on a journey that led to him winning his maiden Sunshine Tour title in the Sishen Classic at the Sishen Golf and Country Club on Sunday. And this week, he even sacrificed his car.

The 23-year-old was in a class of his own in Sunday’s final round as he produced some of the finest ball-striking under pressure to close with a 64 and win by six shots on 17 under par. Louis de Jager took second place on 11 under with a final round of 67.

The victory by Germishuys makes it a hat-trick of first-time winners on the Sunshine Tour in the first three tournaments of the new season after the victories of Herman Loubser and Albert Venter.

“It’s an emotional first win for me because I’ve worked so hard for everyone who has supported me. I’m really glad that I got it over the line,” said Germishuys, who had to break his car window on the Saturday morning of this tournament just to get his clubs out after losings his car keys.

“I lost my car keys on Friday, so on Saturday morning I had to break my car window to get my clubs. I’m leaving my car here and driving back with a friend because I’m flying to Prague on Monday evening for a tournament, so my fiancé will come and collect my car for me,” said Germishuys.

The young star has come close to breaking through on the Sunshine Tour on several occasions, and he used those experiences in the final round.

“I had nothing to lose. I’ve been in contention a couple of times and I kind of knew what to do. I thought if I could just go three under or four under I would be happy. And I managed to go eight under. When I could attack the flags I did so, and when I had to go for the middle of the green I did that too, and luckily I holed a couple of big putts.”

The biggest of those was a monstrous 75-footer on the 16thgreen for birdie.

“I don’t think I’ve hit the ball as well as I have under this kind of pressure. We pitched the ball on every single spot on the green where my caddie Rasta and I wanted to.”

Apart from a unique iron ore trophy from Anglo American and Kumba Iron Ore, Germishuys also won his weight in braai meat from one of the local sponsors, Best Food Forever. Asked during the prizegiving presentation how much he weighs, Germishuys responded, “If it’s for the braai meat, then I weigh 200 kilograms.” – Michael Vlismas

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28th May 2022

A Sishen Classic win is worth its weight in braai meat

KATHU, Northern Cape – It is only in the Kalahari where the champion golfer in the Sishen Classic will win his weight in braai meat.

That’s the added incentive that will be on offer when Sunday’s final round of this Sunshine Tour event tees off with Trevor Fisher Jnr. leading by a shot over the trio of Hennie O’Kennedy, Deon Germishuys and Jaco Ahlers.

The braai meat, courtesy of Best Food Forever, will certainly be a welcome addition for Fisher Jnr. But a first Sunshine Tour victory since 2014 will be of far greater value to him. Such is his singular determination to end this win drought that after his third-round 70 in windy conditions at the Sishen Golf and Country Club on Saturday to lead on 10 under par, Fisher Jnr. didn’t even want to speak about his position for fear of losing focus.

But while Fisher Jnr. is looking to finally chalk up Sunshine Tour victory number 10 on Sunday, in the trio behind him are two golfers who are pushing hard for their maiden titles on the Tour in O’Kennedy and Germishuys.

O’Kennedy defied the tricky conditions with a third round of 67 that included a run of five consecutive birdies on the back nine. He’s been building to this moment with a strong start to the new season that has included finishes of fourth in the Lombard Insurance Classic and ninth in the FBC Zimbabwe Open.

“I’m very pleased to have put myself in a good position. I had a feeling that if the conditions got a little tougher like they did, then the leaders would come to you and you just needed to play good golf to get closer to them as well,” said O’Kennedy.

“The five consecutive birdies were just wonderful. I actually hit the ball better on the front nine but couldn’t make any putts. But it’s got me in a great position. All of these guys out here play great golf week in and week out, and we still have 18 holes left so there is a lot to do.”

O’Kennedy certainly enjoys this golf course and finished seventh here in the 2021 Vodacom Origins of Golf. And it’s actually his previous experience of falling just short of winning that motivates him.

“That has just made me a better golfer because I never want that to ever happen to me again, so it made me work even harder.”

Germishuys will be equally determined to break through after a number of top finishes, most notably his tied fifth finish in the 2021/22 season-ending Tour Championship.

And Ahlers brings a world of experience that saw him recently claim his 10th Sunshine Tour title in April’s Stella Artois Players Championship. – Michael Vlismas

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27th May 2022

Impressive Albertse chasing Sishen Classic glory

Louis Albertse continued his impressive form this season as he claimed a one-stroke lead heading into the weekend of the Sishen Classic at the Kalahari Country Club.

Albertse, who has finished in the top 10 in his last two tournaments, added a second consecutive 67 to top the leaderboard on 10 under par.

He is one stroke clear of Pieter Moolman, who signed for a second round of 69 on Friday. The experienced duo of Trevor Fisher Jnr. and Jacques Blaauw are two shots off the lead following respective second rounds of 66 and 68.

Albertse has started the new Sunshine Tour season in superb form with a finish of ninth in the Lombard Insurance Classic and then second in the FBC Zimbabwe Open. And patience has been the backbone to his success this season.

“I’ve been very patient with my own game and trying to learn what I do well and don’t do well. I’ve tried to stay very patient throughout my round so that I make as few mistakes as possible. I feel like I’ve done that quite well. If I don’t like a tee shot, then I’ll hit an iron and just make sure I’m in play. So patience has been the biggest reason for my form,” said Albertse.

He needed some of that patience on a Friday when his solid putting form wasn’t altogether there.

“These two days were totally different. I had 23 putts in the first round and 32 putts in the second round, with the same score. But I’m very happy with how I managed myself because the second round was frustrating considering how well I was hitting the ball. All in all, I’m proud of myself for how I’ve managed my game.”

Behind him, Moolman continued to keep himself in contention with a grinding second round. “I didn’t give myself enough opportunities in the second round, but that’s what golf is about. You’re never going to have a perfect round. If you can fight and still shoot under par, then that’s a good round.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour

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Sunshine Tour and Airlink partnership takes off

The Sunshine Tour and Airlink today announced a new partnership in which Airlink will be the official airline to the Tour.

The one-year partnership will include preferential rates for Sunshine Tour professionals and staff.

“We are very proud to welcome Airlink to the Sunshine Tour family. This partnership plays a vital role as we continue to expand our schedule and offer greater playing opportunities within South Africa and into the rest of Africa, and with Airlink able to offer a reliable and premier service for our travelling professionals and staff,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

Airlink is Southern Africa’s largest privately-owned airline connecting to the widest network with more than 45 destinations in 13 African countries and St Helena Island.

The timing of the partnership coincides with the Sunshine Tour’s announcement of its latest expanded schedule which includes several new tournaments to destinations within South Africa as well as to neighbouring African countries.

“Airlink is proud to be associated with the Sunshine Tour, and we welcome the Sunshine Tour professional golfers and staff as our customers,” said Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.

“Airlink offers unrivalled travel choices to the broadest network of destinations with the most comprehensive flight schedule within Southern Africa. Just as we do with all our clientele, it is our mission to deliver extraordinary and memorable travel experiences.”

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The Score with Dylan Naidoo

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s Player Blog.

Dylan Naidoo reflects on the journey to improvement he’s been on, and the plans he has for his career in 2022. 

I feel like I am playing well enough to let the performance take care of itself. With the new season starting on the Sunshine Tour, I had planned to get some good tournament golf in and get myself as high up as possible on the Luno Order of Merit before heading off to the Korn Ferry Tour later this year.

It’s such a tough learning experience over there, especially the KornFerry Tour. It’s elite golf over there. The American system is extremely cut throat. I played with two golfers in the final stage of the KornFerry Q School who both had their PGA Tour cards the year before. It’s not easy, but that’s pro golf. If it was easy everybody would be playing. It opened my eyes to the improvements I need to make in my game, and how the level of talent out there is extremely high and the margins are so fine.

I went to a couple of qualifying schools to give myself the opportunity to test myself somewhere other than on the Sunshine Tour. I wanted to answer the question: Have I improved? Have I got to the point where I can find membership on a different tour. That was the first step in realising my game is good and, while there is still some improvement I’m working on, it is able to translate onto a world stage.

It was my dad who first got me into golf. He was a sportsman and he played tennis, cricket and then later golf. I naturally graduated to those sports as well. I was a kid who was always determined and driven to be good, so I’d want to hit cricket balls for hours and play tennis for hours. But in those sports you need somebody else to help you out, whereas with golf I could go to the range and be there all day on my own.

The first real realisation I had that I could be quite good at golf was when I won the SA Boys Under-17 title. I’d played junior events and for Central Gauteng, and you think you’re good. But then one day my dad said I need to put everything I have into this game. My dad has these moments when he gives me these hard truths. At the time I’m always like, ‘Yeah yeah’. But then I realised he’s right. I needed to put more work into my golf. I realised with that SA Boys title that if I do put in the work I’ll get the reward. Basically, it was a realisation that if I work hard, I have enough talent to make a career out of this.

I’m really enjoying the journey I’m on now. I’ve chatted with somebody like Brandon Stone a lot and about this journey and what’s pushed him and driven him. And another good friend of mine, Viktor Hovland, has also had a great influence. We played a number of junior events together and his rise has been so exponential. You just see it at that age, and then you see them become multiple winners. Viktor has been a real case study for me with the golf swing. He’s somebody I’ve watched and tried to emulate.

I love visiting museums and big cities. A science or natural history museum. And I’ve now taken to visiting art museums as well. I’ve developed quite a love for modern art. I just think it’s such an impactful medium. It’s just incredible to see what human ingenuity can result in. I’ve been to The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) and that’s now my gold standard.

Photo Credit: Sunshine Tour

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26th May 2022

Englishman Bawden loving his Kalahari experience

KATHU, Northern Cape – It’s only his third tournament in South Africa and Englishman Bradley Bawden has already fallen in love with the country and the Sunshine Tour, and it showed as he shared a four-way tie for the lead after Thursday’s first round of the Sishen Classic at the Kalahari Country Club.

Bawden opened with a bogey-free six-under-par 66 to share the lead with South Africa’s Pieter Moolman, Ockie Strydom and Deon Germishuys. Strydom is a previous winner on this golf course in the 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf.

They are one stroke clear of the in-form Louis Albertse who has top-10s in his previous two tournaments, Malcolm Mitchell and Danie van Niekerk.

“It’s my first time here and this golf course is really nice,” said Bawden, who came through the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and is playing in only his third tournament on the Tour.

“I’m still very fresh in South Africa and enjoying it. The Sunshine Tour is a growing tour and I see a lot of opportunity out here. The schedule is great and you play a lot of good golf courses, so I just feel you’re going to improve out here. That’s why I decided to come over and play,” said the Essex-based golfer.

And he certainly enjoyed his first look at this golf course.

“You’ve got to hit the ball well and the greens are really rolling nicely. It’s not a course where you just tee it up and rip it down there. You’ve got to think where you’re going to leave the ball and have to put it in the right spots otherwise you’ll be in trouble. It’s nice to play a course where you have to use your brain.”

Moolman was happy with his start on a golf course that has always challenged him. “I’ve always struggled here. On this course you can hit good shots and get some bad luck. But I think most of my shots that were a bit off still worked out fine, so that was a big help,” he said.

Behind them, Albertse made yet another good start for the third consecutive tournament. Albertse has started the season extremely well with a finish of ninth in the Lombard Insurance Classic and second in the FBC Zimbabwe Open.

“It’s always nice starting a tournament well and gaining confidence as you go on. The putter is working for me at the moment, and that gets the momentum going through the rounds. This is such a good golf course, and it tests your game while also rewarding good golf,” he said. – Michael Vlismas

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Kelapile knows the power of belief at Sunshine Tour golf development clinics

KATHU, Northern Cape – When the young golfer with no shoes arrived with a bunch of other kids to take part in the Sunshine Tour’s golf development clinic at this week’s Sishen Classic, professional Alphius Kelapile felt like he knew everything about that boy without ever having met him before.

“I grew up the same way as these kids. I come from the same communities and the environment is the same as I grew up in. It humbles me,” said Kelapile, who together with fellow professionals Alex Haindl and Henning du Plooy worked with about 40 kids from Kuruman and Kathu and helped them with a few of the basics of the game at the Kalahari Country Club on Wednesday.

These golf clinics are a regular occurrence at Sunshine Tour events. They form part of South African golf’s general development focus that begins with the talent identified and nurtured by the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and a host of other programmes run by the PGA of South Africa and the foundations of individual golfers such as the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) and others, and at the highest level culminates in professionals who form part of the Sunshine Tour Transformation Class supported by Investec, Betway, VAT It and Credit Guarantee. This week, the partnership with the Sishen Classic and Anglo American is another way for the sponsors to give back to their local Kathu community by giving the kids exposure to professionals at Sunshine Tour events.

And they all have one thing in common – opportunity.

“There is a saying that every child needs one adult to believe in him or her. I see that as my responsibility,” says Anne-Marie Rabie, who runs the Playgolf programme in Kuruman which teaches the kids the basics of chipping, putting, pitching and the full swing.

“It’s all about giving them that self-confidence. When they start to see they can play golf, you can visibly see how they start to believe in themselves more, and they start doing better at school as well.”

It’s this philosophy of having one adult believe in a child which resonates so much with Kelapile. Growing up with his grandmother in tough circumstances in Mafikeng, where he walked 10 kilometres to school and 10 kilometres back every day, Kelapile considers himself “one of the lucky ones” to have had one adult believe in him.

“Golf is an expensive sport so it was tough even getting to a golf course to play. But at the Leopard Park Golf Club in Mafikeng there was a member there – Wandile Bozwana. He was the one behind my talent and who funded me. He identified me and supported me. So it’s a privilege for me to be a part of such a golf clinic. The Sunshine Tour has started the Transformation Class, and it’s becoming easier for players to come through from disadvantaged areas. The Sunshine Tour is doing very well when it comes to transformation.” – Michael Vlismas

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25th May 2022

Thimba Jnr ready to mine new opportunities in Sishen Classic

KATHU, Northern Cape – It was in the back of a van while being transported to a COVID-19 quarantine facility in Phuket when perspective hit home hard for Toto Thimba Jnr. And it’s this perspective that the Sunshine Tour professional hopes to bring to his first tournament of the new season in this week’s Sishen Classic at the Kalahari Country Club.

Thimba Jnr. was in Phuket preparing for two tournaments when he tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him into two weeks of quarantine overseas. But he says the time he spent in his hotel room was time he used for deep introspection, and which has given him a new focus for this coming season.

“I’m feeling positive. I feel like I’m starting afresh,” said Thimba Jnr., who after his groundbreaking 2019/20 season where he won his first Sunshine Tour title, finished outside the top 50 on the final Luno Order of Merit last season.

“Those two weeks of quarantine were traumatic. But it gave me time for some introspection to really look at my career and my life. I’m not focused on what happened last season. I know I’m a good player. I’ve won before our here. I just have to start again. It’s obviously disappointing to lose your exemption, but I feel like I can win again this year.”

Thimba Jnr. said that, in a sense, he’s taken inspiration from Tiger Woods and the challenges he’s currently going through just to play the game.

“You have to embrace the struggle. Sometimes I think winning could be dangerous for yourself. Struggling teaches you how to be humble, how to work hard, how to appreciate life. COVID-19 has shown us how unpredictable life is. It has taught me to be patient, work hard and never give up. And you just need one good week to turn it around.”

This week certainly represents that opportunity. The new Sishen Classic is a major boost to the schedule, with a significant R3 million total purse so early in the new season.

Recent champions Albert Venter and Herman Loubser are definitely hoping to keep mining their rich vein of form this season in a town famous for its mining wealth.

The field also contains the winners of the recent Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament in Chile’s Matias Calderon and Yubin Jung respectively. – Michael Vlismas