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21st June 2022

A Transformation to Greatness for Historically Disadvantaged Professionals

South African professional golf now has its clearest pathway to greatness for historically disadvantaged professional golfers, with the new Papwa Sewgolum Class combining more playing opportunities with support from major corporates to promote greater inclusion in the game.

A total of 61 historically disadvantaged golfers – including experienced professionals such as Dylan Naidoo, Keenan Davidse and Heinrich Bruiners as well as the younger generation of Franklin Manchest and Karabo Mokoena – will be given every opportunity to take their professional careers to the next level as the first intake of the new Papwa Sewgolum Class for the 2022/23 season, and with major support from Investec, SuperSport, Betway, VAT It, DNI, Credit Guarantee, Cobra Puma and TaylorMade, and The Papwa Foundation.

Papwa Sewgolum was a great Indian golfer who played a pioneering role in the advancement of South African golf amongst the historically disadvantaged and who through his international success in the game remains a role model to many South African golfers.

“The establishment of the Papwa Sewgolum Class 2022/23 not only recognises Papwa’s role in highlighting the need for golf to be more inclusive, but it also contributes to building a lasting legacy in keeping with the notable success he achieved at home and abroad,” said Jehad Kasu, Executive Board Member and Spokesperson of The Papwa Foundation.

“We are encouraged by the Sunshine Tour’s commitment to meaningfully transform the sport in collaboration with the Papwa Foundation and look forward to crystallising a lasting partnership through which we enable an opportunity to all qualifying, aspirant historically disadvantaged golfers, to achieve greatness.”

The Papwa Sewgolum Class is one of the most comprehensive development initiatives within South African sport, and which seeks to build on the work done by the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and GolfRSA to identify the raw amateur talent within the game, and to then provide a sustainable pathway into the professional arena for historically disadvantaged golfers.

Naidoo is a key example of what the Papwa Sewgolum Class aspires to achieve, with the rising star having come through the ranks of securing his playing privileges via the Vusi Ngubeni Tournament for historically disadvantaged professionals and winning on the Altron Big Easy Tour before progressing to his place on the Sunshine Tour where he finished third in the Rookie of the Year race in 2020 behind current PGA Tour and DP World Tour stars Garrick Higgo and Wilco Nienaber.

Naidoo has now also secured his playing privileges on the Korn Ferry Tour in the United States, which is the main feeder tour to the PGA Tour.

Davidse has also used his opportunities to move to the next level in his career, working his way up to his current Sunshine Tour status and finishing a career-high of 16th on the Luno Order of Merit for the past season. He has also progressed onto the Challenge Tour, the main feeder Tour to the DP World Tour.

The inaugural Papwa Sewgolum Class for this season will have greater opportunities to compete on the Sunshine Tour and Altron Big Easy Tour through the expanded schedules and increased prize money offered on both these tours, and with monthly financial assistance towards their tournament golf expenses, including their tournament entry fees.

The Altron Big Easy Tour alone, one of the main areas of competition for the Papwa Sewgolum Class, will this season feature 10 tournaments in a schedule running from May to September and which includes record prize money for the Tour. 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.

The Papwa Sewgolum Class golfers will also receive access to quality coaching, golf courses, gyms and fitness instructors at the World of Golf. TaylorMade and Cobra Puma Golf will provide them with equipment and apparel, and they will have access to a sports psychologist and career counseling.

Further career paths within the golf industry have also been created through a partnership with the PGA of South Africa that allows for members of the Papwa Sewgolum Class to begin the qualification to become recognised PGA Professionals.

Photo: The Sunshine Tour announced its inaugural Papwa Sewgolum Class for the 2022/23 season at Randpark Golf Club on Tuesday, and which aims to help promote greater inclusivity in the professional game. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

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17th June 2022

Dream US Open start for Daffue

South Africa’s MJ Daffue celebrated his recent PGA Tour status with a strong start in the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline as he came through round one just one shot off the lead.

Daffue, who recently earned his PGA Tour card via the Korn Ferry Tour, opened with a round of three-under-par 67 to place him tied second just one shot behind leader Adam Hadwin of Canada.

“I think a lot of things worked well. Obviously the putter. I put a lot of work in on the speed on the greens. I’m not used to US Open speed. That translated into leaving myself in good spots, making it as easy as I can. Sometimes it meant hitting it in the rough. We had a good strategy. I drove the ball pretty decent. The times I missed the fairway, I missed it in good spots, and so, yeah, execution of the strategy, and I would say I can’t believe how relaxed I was out there. I was able to feel my hands, and that’s a big deal,” said Daffue.

The South African shares a close relationship with double US Open champion Retief Goosen, who he says did have a few words of advice for him before this week.

“The one time I asked him, I said, ‘Hey, how do you do so well under pressure in US Opens?’ He said, ‘I’ve just done it a few times’. It makes a lot of sense, actually. The more you do it, the more you get used to it. But he has just been encouraging. He has been really sending me encouraging messages as far as, listen, the ability is there. It’s just how do you put it together and believe in yourself.”

Daffue said that finally securing his PGA Tour card has also helped him to play with a lot more freedom this week.

“I’ve been just so focused on my process and my goals, and I know that the ability is there. It’s just how do I bring it out. I think now I’ve finally probably started feeling the freedom because I’m, like, I secured my card next year, and maybe I can go for a few more things that I would never have. Yeah, it’s definitely some more freedom.

“But I’ve really tried to come into this week not putting too much pressure on myself, just trusting that I have everything right now that I want. My life is really good. I have a great family, and everybody is healthy, and I think just being grateful for things has really given me a step back and looking from the outside in, and eventually this is just a game. We’re playing against the best in the world, and it’s just a privilege to be here.”

Of the other South Africans in the field, Shaun Norris opened with a level-par 70, Branden Grace with a six-over-par 76, Louis Oosthuizen with a 77, and Erik van Rooyen with a 78.

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12th June 2022

Mostert bags maiden win at Kit Kat Group Pro-Am

IRENE, City of Tshwane – Dylan Mostert showed great mental composure and produced a bogey-free back nine for his maiden Sunshine Tour title on Sunday, as he won the KitKat Group ProAm at Irene Country Club by three strokes.

Mostert shot a fantastic 68 in the final round for a 17-under-par total of 199, three clear of MJ Viljoen (67), to become the fourth first-time winner on tour this season.

A bogey on the par-five second hole made for a nervous start for the left-handed Mostert, but he showed he was up for the challenge when he chipped in for birdie on the third in superb fashion on the undulating green.

Malcolm Mitchell went out in three-under 33 to make for an exciting challenge for Mostert, but the 23-year-old from Modderfontein Golf Club birdied the ninth and then produced a fabulous hybrid approach shot from under the trees, in the dirt, finding the middle of the 10th green and then sinking the putt for birdie for some breathing space.

Further birdies at the 12th and 17th holes meant he was partitioned by three shots from Viljoen, five clear of the dangerous Louis Albertse (70) and half-a-dozen strokes ahead of Kyle Barker (67) and Ryan van Velzen (71) by the end of the R1 million tournament.

Mitchell fell away with a horrible double-bogey at the 14thfollowed by bogeys on the next two holes as well, finishing on nine-under-par.

The pro-am competition was won by the team of Sunshine Tour professional MJ Viljoen and his amateur partner Japie Holtzhausen from Sasko. The duo finished top of the leaderboard with 91 points, two ahead of the field. The teams of professional Madalitso Muthiya and amateur Nash Soni, and professional Hennie O’Kennedy and amateur Moe Mitha shared second place on 89 points.

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11th June 2022

Mostert making a meal of Kit Kat Group Pro-Am

IRENE, City of Tshwane – Dylan Mostert produced a top-class display of putting for a second day in a row as he took a two-stroke lead on 13-under-par on Saturday heading into the final round of the KitKat Group ProAm at Irene Country Club.

Mostert was just a shot off the lead after a brilliant 65 in the first round, and on Saturday he followed up with a marvellous 66, leaving him a couple of shorts clear of Keagan Thomas on 11-under after rounds of 66 and 67.

First-round leader Ryan van Velzen (70) is in a tie for third on 10-under-par with Louis Albertse (68).

The 23-year-old Mostert, a big-hitting former U.S. College golfer at Dalton State, said it was a hot putter which had made the difference for him so far at Irene CC.

“My mental game has been very good, I’m hitting it in the right spots and then putting well,” Mostert said. “I just seemed to have had the knack of reading the greens right.

“It feels like if you leave yourself in a bad spot on the green here, then it will be really tough. The greens are undulating and some of the putts are very quick and can go sideways.

“I actually haven’t hit the ball that well off the tee, but I have missed in the right spots and then my play has been very good from there,” Mostert said.

The Modderfontein Golf Club representative now has a wonderful opportunity to claim his first Sunshine Tour title in Sunday’s final round, having finished second in the Blue Label Challenge at Gary Player Country Club last October.

“It takes consistency over all three rounds to be successful, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Mostert said. “It’s going to be important to stay calm and patient, and just let it happen.

“For tomorrow, I will try to stay neutral emotionally, just do what I’ve been doing. But I also need to keep pushing because you’re not going to win this tournament shooting level-par.

“So I’ll be trying to make birdies and just keep that putter rolling,” Mostert said.

MJ Viljoen and Madalitso Muthiya both fired wonderful six-under-par 66s on Saturday to join Malcolm Mitchell (69) and Ockie Strydom (68) in the tie for fifth place on nine-under.

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10th June 2022

Rookie Van Velzen leads the way at Kit Kat Group Pro-Am

IRENE, City of Tshwane – Sunshine Tour rookie Ryan van Velzen roared to a marvellous eight-under-par 64 at Irene Country Club on Friday to claim a one-stroke lead after the first round of the KitKat Group ProAm, the R1 million tournament being held for the second time after flooding washed out the tournament in February.

The 21-year-old Van Velzen, playing just his fifth Sunshine Tour event, was particularly rampant on the par-fours, picking up six of his eight birdies there, to go with birdies on the par-five 10th and 17th holes. It was also a bogey-free round for the Benoni golfer, who won his card from the Big Easy Tour in January.

“I’m really happy and I played really nicely, hitting the ball good and close and making the putts,” Van Velzen said after racing past his previous best Tour round of 68.

“I drove the ball straight most of the day, I didn’t miss many fairways and my iron play was really good. I was surprised how good the greens were after all the rain and flooding earlier in the year.

“The course is in really good shape and you have to hit it straight off the tee because of all the trees. And the greens were pretty quick so you didn’t want to be on the wrong side of the hole,” Van Velzen said.

The former GolfRSA squad member was on the right side of most things on Friday, including an extraordinary tussle for top spot on the leaderboard that he eventually won.

Dylan Mostert finished just one stroke back after a brilliant 65, converting a great start after he was three-under through five holes.

Merrick Bremner, Ockie Strydom and JJ Senekal made the early running with their five-under-par 67s, but endured the frustration of watching the leading duo sweep past them in the afternoon, as well as the in-form Louis Albertse, Malcolm Mitchell and Keagan Thomas, who all shot 66s.

Rourke van der Spuy, who drank from the champagne bottle a week ago when he won the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City, was also part of the bottleneck at the top as he started on the 10thtee and moved to four-under-par after his birdie on the third hole. But the aggressive 32-year-old did not quite have the finish he intended as he then bogeyed the par-four sixth and made pars the rest of the way in to finish with a 69.

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9th June 2022

Young guns hoping to keep firing in Kit Kat Group Pro-Am

IRENE, City of Tshwane – The Kit Kat Group Pro-Am returns to the Sunshine Tour schedule this week following the extreme flooding that forced the February edition of the tournament to be postponed.

From Friday to Sunday, Irene Country Club plays host to the second edition of this R1-million tournament, which features three of the four winners on the Tour this season as part of another quality field with a new wave of young stars making their presence felt.

Herman Loubser, Albert Venter and Rourke van der Spuy have set a youthful tone to the start of the season as they’ve all claimed victories on the Sunshine Tour this season.

Dylan Naidoo will be keen to join them as he returns to a tournament where he led the first round in February before the weather forced the cancellation of the event and its rescheduling to this week.

And both Louis Albertse and Hennie O’Kennedy will keep pushing hard for victories as well.

Albertse has finished no worse than 15th in his four tournaments played this season and came close to a win when he finished runner-up in the FBC Zimbabwe Open. He’s worked his way up into fourth place on the Luno Order of Merit.

O’Kennedy has been equally impressive as he’s climbed into third place on the Luno Order of Merit with three top-10s in his last four tournaments.

But it could well be the experienced Louis de Jager who teaches the youngsters a lesson this week. The five-time Sunshine Tour champion tops the Luno Order of Merit with two runner-up finishes and a fourth place in his last three tournaments as he keeps driving to win for the first time on Tour since the 2019 Eye of Africa PGA Championship.

Apart from providing another vital playing opportunity for the Sunshine Tour professionals, the Kit Kat Group has played a key role outside the ropes as well and has embraced its vision of making a difference in its communities.

Through its Birdies for Kit Kat Group initiative in 2021, the company partnered with the Sunshine Tour and its professionals in donating 2 543 food hampers to needy families who were reeling under the economic impact of COVID-19. The hampers were specifically donated to the South African Caddie Association (SACA), the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and FeedSA.

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3rd June 2022

Hot putter carries Van Der Spuy to SunBet Challenge title

SUN CITY, North-West – Rourke van der Spuy kept the door firmly closed on multiple Sunshine Tour winners Hennie Otto and Louis de Jager as another inspired putting display saw him shoot 69 in the final round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City to claim a three-stroke victory in the first event of the SunBet Series.

De Jager, who has won five times on tour, and Otto, who has a whopping 13 Sunshine Tour titles plus three on the European Tour, were Van der Spuy’s company in the final three-ball, breathing down his neck just one stroke behind the 32-year-old.

But Van der Spuy was unfazed, leading from start-to-finish in the final round. He made an early statement with birdies on the second and third holes, and even back-to-back bogeys on six and seven did not derail him. Birdies on the 10th and 11th holes put him back in command, and he sealed the deal with a fine approach into the middle of the 17th green and a 25-foot birdie putt.

“It was just about spot-on in terms of our planning. My coach Shaun Coetzee and I said we would go for a score in the 60s, on a tough course like this that felt like it would be good enough,” a delighted Van der Spuy said.

“Something under-par was our target and I’m very proud to have broken 70. I had control of my game, even when Louis went on a good run on the back nine. That birdie on 17 was my most clutch putt of the day.

“I’ve been very good on the greens all week and my only slip-up was a three-putt on seven, but that was a very long putt.

“I’ve always thought, why not lead and be the frontrunner, even one shot counts at the end of the day,” Van der Spuy said.

It’s been four years between celebrations for the Durban Country Club golfer, whose previous Sunshine Tour wins were at the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open in 2018 and the Fish River Sun Challenge in 2015.

Making the occasion even more special was to be able to beat Otto, who finished in a tie for third, four shots back, after a level-par 72 on Friday.

“Playing with Hennie was a wonderful feeling because growing up, and when I started at the bottom of the Sunshine Tour, I looked up to him as a mentor. He is such an accomplished and successful golfer, and Louis as well. Today I realised some childhood dreams,” Van der Spuy said.

Ockie Strydom fired a 68, the low round of the day, to finish in a tie for fifth on three-under-par with JJ Senekal (71) and the in-form Louis Albertse (72).

De Jager finished in second place on his own, on five-under-par, after making 71 in the final round. But he did give Van der Spuy some cause for concern on the back nine as he collected three birdies.

But not even that could distract Van der Spuy from his goal.

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2nd June 2022

Confident Van Der Spuy ready for SunBet Challenge final round

SUN CITY, North-West – It took a little while for Rourke van der Spuy to warm up, but he was loving the greens on the back nine as he shot a one-under-par 71 on Thursday to claim a one-stroke lead after the second round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City at Gary Player Country Club.

The 32-year-old Van der Spuy will be heading into Friday’s final round on five-under-par for the tournament, one clear of a strong quartet of contenders in Hennie Otto (69), Louis de Jager (68), Callum Mowat (73) and Kyle Barker (70).

Van der Spuy went into the second round in second place, one shot behind Mowat, and, teeing off at 8am, he made seven straight pars before a double-bogey at the par-four eighth was a frustrating blow.

“The big thing about teeing off early in the morning at Sun City is the considerable temperature difference compared to later in the day,” Van der Spuy said.

“The sun rises at 7am but it only really gets warm around 9-10 o’clock. It just takes a while for the body to warm up and get loose, and of course the ball goes much further when it’s warmer.

“So it’s just a case of getting through the first nine holes and I was just pleased to be bogey-free after seven holes, but then the double-bogey six was a punch in the gut,” Van der Spuy said.

But as the sun rose above the Pilanesberg mountains and warmed both the course and the competitors, the Durban-born golfer warmed to his task with back-to-back birdies around the turn and then two more sandwiching a bogey at the 15th.

“I was very happy to recover with those two birdies straight after the double-drop and I was definitely more comfortable on the back nine,” Van der Spuy said.

“It was also a good day on the greens, I converted a few outside chances to keep the round going. Credit to my caddy, Jacob Lekgotho, who I called in three times on the back nine and he was spot-on with his lines.

“Jakes has been the caddy master at Sun City so he’s as comfortable around Gary Player Country Club as I am and those putts were real momentum-keepers,” Van der Spuy said.

The Durban Country Club representative won on his rookie year on tour at the 2015 Fish River Sun Challenge and then again, three years later, at the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open. But as surely as the years have passed, so too has Van der Spuy’s game evolved and he said the final round will be about setting and achieving a target he and his coach set for himself.

“We will see how everyone finishes and then create a game-plan from there. The key is we will be looking at a score and not the rest of the field.

“It’s been an 18-month process and it’s something I now trust to get the job done in a final round. As you mature and go through the ups-and-downs of a golf career, your game evolves as you do as a person.

“I’m definitely a different player now than I was when I won those tournaments three years apart. But I trust the golfer I am,” Van der Spuy said.

The experienced duo of Otto and De Jager were both in fine form on Thursday, having 11 birdies between them, and they will surely put Van der Spuy to the test in Friday’s final round.

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1st June 2022

Mowat finds his inspiration in SunBet Challenge

SUN CITY, North-West – Callum Mowat began with two birdies and just continued on that high as he shot a 67 to lead the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City after the first round on Wednesday, saying afterwards it was a round that “made me feel good about me”.

Mowat’s five-under-par score included just one bogey on the testing Gary Player Country Club layout and he came home in three-under 33. That gave him a one-stroke lead over Rourke van der Spuy on four-under, while MJ Viljoen and Harry Konig were tied for third after shooting 69s.

“I’ve been inside a deep hole and I needed to figure out how I felt about myself,” Mowat said. “It was nice to feel I belong out here and I am competitive, it was good to feel good about myself and where my game is trending. It made me feel good about me.”

“I just tried to be aggressive, just let fly and stop trying to steer the ball around, let it run! The demanding thing about Gary Player Country Club is off the tee, but I was more aggressive than usual.”

“That meant I could hit a lot more greens with shorter irons. My game-plan was to just get as far as possible off the tee, it worked well and then I just stuck to the plan,” the 30-year-old Mowat said. The Glendower golfer had not broken 70 yet in four rounds this season at the FBC Zimbabwe Open and the Sishen Classic.

The 27-year-old Viljoen looked like catching Mowat as he raced to four-under through 14 holes, but a weak finish saw him drop a shot at the par-four 18th to finish two back on three-under.

Van der Spuy started his round with eight pars, but he caught fire around the turn with birdies on the ninth and 10th holes, and he picked up further shots on the 13th and 17th holes in a bogey-free round.

Konig, hailing from Devon in England, is in his first season on the Sunshine Tour and he also dropped just one shot, making a four on the par-three 16th, in his 69.