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30th July 2022

Prinsloo claims wire-to-wire win in Eswatini

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Multiple Sunshine Tour winner Jean Hugo and Wynand Dingle got to within a stroke at times, but Jaco Prinsloo held his nerve to stay in front and complete a wire-to-wire three-stroke victory in the FNB Eswatini Nkonyeni Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate on Saturday.

Prinsloo shot a three-under-par 69 in Saturday’s third and final round to finish on 12-under-par in the R1 million tournament, with Hugo posting a 68 to finish on nine-under-par, and a bogey on the par-three 18th hole seeing Dingle sign for a 68 as well, but slipping back into a tie for third with Keegan Thomas (68) and Martin Rohwer (69) on eight-under.

The 32-year-old Prinsloo, who counts big titles such as the 2017 Vodacom Origins of Golf Final and last year’s Players Championship among his five professional titles, led by two strokes going into the final round. He made a nervous start with a bogey at the par-four first hole, but his lead grew again with three successive birdies from the seventh hole.

The Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate golfer went three ahead with a birdie at the par-four 12th hole, but a bogey at the par-four 14th, which Hugo birdied, made for a nervous finish, especially with the last hole being a tricky par-three.

But Prinsloo crucially managed to get a birdie-three on the 16th hole, while Hugo made bogey and Dingle could only make par, and the Centurion resident parred the last two holes for a victory that got him up to fourth on the Luno Order of Merit.

What was most impressive about Prinsloo’s win was that he did what he said he was going to do as the frontrunner on the final day: He kept his head down and stuck to his game-plan, no matter what the compelling duo of Hugo and Dingle threw at him.

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29th July 2022

Patience key as Prinsloo tops leaderboard in Eswatini

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Eleven successive pars and then two birdies coming in were enough for Jaco Prinsloo to retain his lead after the second round of the FNB Eswatini Nkonyeni Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate on Friday, and the 32-year-old will take a two-shot lead into Saturday’s final round.

Following his brilliant 65 on the opening day, Prinsloo did not find the going as easy on Friday as his ball-striking was not as good and he battled to get the ball close to the hole. He showed wonderful patience, however, and kept grinding away, starting his round on the 10th and registering nine pars before also playing the first and second holes in regulation.

All that determination finally paid off on the par-four third with his first birdie, and he picked up another shot on the par-five eighth.

“It was definitely harder for me today and I just did not hit the ball as close to the hole as I did on the first day, so I didn’t have as many birdie opportunities,” Prinsloo said after his 70 took him to nine-under-par.

“It was good to be bogey-free though because this is not the easiest course. But it’s still a weird place to be with 11 pars in a row. It’s good but not so good.

“It meant I was still playing solid golf and in control of the ball, and I’m definitely happy to still be in front,” Prinsloo said.

Herman Loubser was two behind Prinsloo after the first round, but he could only shoot a level-par 72 on Friday and has been overtaken by CJ du Plessis, who roared into second place with a 68 that took him to seven-under-par overall.

Loubser has slipped into a tie for third on five-under with Jean Hugo (68), Rhys West (69), Martin Rohwer (68) and Ricky Hendler (71).

“I’m not going to change anything,” Prinsloo said of his approach to the final round of the R1 million event. “I’m going to take it as just another round and the game-plan will stay the same.

“You just have to keep your head down and see where you land up.”

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28th July 2022

Eagles in Eswatini give Prinsloo the lead

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Jaco Prinsloo is an avid fisherman and his ‘catch’ on the par-fives at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate was the major reason why he leads the FNB Eswatini Nkonyeni Challenge after the first round on Thursday.

If Prinsloo was a birdwatcher then he would have been equally thrilled with the two eagles and two birdies he bagged on the four par-fives on the bushveld golf course next to the Usutu River, making up the bulk of his gains in a seven-under-par 65 that left him top of the pile, two strokes ahead of Herman Loubser.

Prinsloo eagled the eighth and 15th holes, while also collecting birdie fours on the fourth and 13th holes. The 32-year-old’s other birdies came on the third and ninth holes, and he dropped just one shot, on the par-four fifth.

“I hit the ball pretty good today,” Prinsloo said. “I hit it really close for my one eagle and made a decent putt for the other. It was a case of really good putting today and good hitting, there were a couple of very good shots.

“The tour had a break of more than a month so it’s been a while since I played competitively and these are not the fastest greens, different to what we’re used to compared to winter in Johannesburg.

“It’s a new course for us because we’re used to playing at the Royal Swazi Sun, but Nkonyeni is an absolute beauty, really challenging but fun in the bushveld,” Prinsloo said.

Prinsloo is enjoying a solid season and is 15th on the Luno Order of Merit, saying he feels he is “moving in the right direction” and needs to “keep doing what I’m doing”.

If the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate representative can back up his 65 over the next two rounds then he will keep his challengers in the R1 million event mum.

Modderfontein’s Loubser is foremost among those, a marvellous run of four successive birdies around the turn leading him to a 67.

Ricky Hendler and young Kyle McClatchie are a stroke further back on four-under, while Jovan Rebula, Lyle Rowe, Clinton Grobler and CJ du Plessis are all on three-under-par.

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A PGA Championship for the community

ST FRANCIS BAY, EASTERN CAPE: The 87th PGA Championship hosted by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency returns to St Francis Links from 3-6 November 2022, and with the championship’s legacy project in full swing as it continues to touch lives through the game of golf.

Nazeen Goeda from Humansdorp is the first recipient of a full PGA three-year study bursary valued at R78 000 as part of the objective to work with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) to use the championship to make a meaningful impact in the local community. The 29-year-old has been enrolled as a PGA associate at St Francis Links as part of the programme.

The easing of Covid measures is also expected to see an increase in golf development initiatives, local staff recruitment and local procurement at this year’s championship as it contributes to the socio-economic development of the province.

“The PGA Championship is the pride of the PGA of South Africa and its flagship event, and it remains one of South Africa’s must-win professional tournaments. The success of the 2021 championship can also be directly attributed to the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, and the Sarah Baartman and Kouga Municipalities’ support,” said Ivano Ficalbi, Chief Executive of the PGA of South Africa.

The 87th PGA Championship will celebrate the history of this great championship with a host of activities including live entertainment for golf fans and their families as it shines the spotlight on the local community.

“The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) is mandated to promote economic growth through tourism and utilises this golf tournament as such. Our partnership with the PGA is aimed at stimulating the Eastern Cape Province’s tourism sector and thus to save and provide much needed jobs as the tournament will support local businesses and attract local and international visitors,” said Vuyani Dayimani, ECPTA Chief Executive Officer.

According to Dayimani, partnering with the globally-recognised brand of the PGA contributes towards the Eastern Cape’s aim of reaching national and international audiences.

“According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF) golf participation and interest has seen an 8% increase year-over-year and a near 20% gain in the last 5 years. The NGF also revealed that the number for very interested non-golfers has increased by 1.5 million compared to 2019. This shows the pull the sport has and we couldn’t be more pleased to tap into its resources and audiences for tourism benefits as per the ECPTA’s events strategy, which is about using events that have a huge following and loyal fanbase to sell and showcase the Eastern Cape as a tourism destination of choice to wider audiences across the globe. As the travel restrictions are eased, this showpiece event could not have come at a better time,” added Dayimani.

Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour professional Dean Burmester claimed the title last year and was delighted to add his name to such a prestigious trophy.

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, said: “The PGA Championship is one of the most historic tournaments on our schedule and a title every South African professional wants to win at some point in his career. We are proud to partner with the PGA of South Africa and ECPTA in showcasing this incredible event.”

Jimmy Headbush, the Tournament Promoter, said: “The PGA Championship is a demonstration of a successful Private-Public partnership collaboration to benefit the community. Elite professional golfers, golf enthusiasts, holiday makers and business executives will all be part of the spectacle.”

Photo (From left to right): Ivano Ficalbi, Chief Executive of the PGA of South Africa; Jeff Clause, CEO of St Francis Links; Ald. Brenton Williams, Speaker Kouga Municipality; and Cllr. Solethu Lucas, MMC Corporate Services Sarah Baartman Municipality at the launch of the 2022 PGA Championship at St Francis Links. Credit: PGA Championship.

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27th July 2022

Sunshine Tour back in action in Eswatini

After a brief break the Sunshine Tour returns to the fairways with a strong run of tournaments to the end of the year, starting with this week’s FNB Eswatini Nkonyeni Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate.

The 54-hole tournament on a championship golf course located on the banks of Eswatini’s Usuthu River tees off on Thursday with a quality field featuring several of this year’s champions competing for total prize money of R1 million.

The tournament also signals the start of an important stretch of tournaments through to November including the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, the SunBet Challenge Series and several new tournaments.

It’s a crucial part of the season for the local professionals as they hone their games for the upcoming summer tournaments co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour.

The field includes four of the last five winners on the Sunshine Tour, with Herman Loubser, Albert Venter, Rourke van der Spuy and Dylan Mostert all in the kingdom of Eswatini this week.

Ryan van Velzen, who is currently leading the Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year race, is also in the field. Van Velzen has had a strong season so far including a finish of tied fourth in June’s KitKat Group Pro-Am and has missed only one cut in his last five Sunshine Tour tournaments.

The Sunshine Tour’s Papwa Sewgolum Class of transformation professionals will also be well represented in this event, including Dylan Naidoo and Heinrich Bruiners as well as younger stars such as Franklin Manchest and Karabo Mokoena.

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19th July 2022

Eugene Marugi (Maroga) Statement

The Sunshine Tour is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of professional Eugene Marugi (Maroga).

Eugene was a gifted member of the Sunshine Tour whose incredible talent for the game of golf took him from humble beginnings to a place on the Sunshine Tour where he was a respected and well-liked professional since 2003.

Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.

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18th July 2022

Burmester enjoys best Major finish in St Andrews

Dean Burmester had his best finish in a Major with his tied 11th in the 150th Open in St Andrews, and took another big step towards his goal of becoming South Africa’s next Major champion.

At the beginning of this year, Burmester said, “My goal is definitely to become South Africa’s next Major champion. I want to be challenging in the Majors. Last year in The Open I had a flash and was in the top five for about nine holes which was great. I saw my name up there. As a boy growing up, that’s where you want to be. You dream of standing at The Open with the claret jug.”

Burmester’s final round of 66 saw him finish as the leading South African in the field on 11 under par, nine shots behind champion Cameron Smith of Australia. Smith produced a back-nine masterclass to deny Rory McIlroy and hold off Cameron Young for the title.

“I played well, made great putts early on. Momentum was with me. I kept that throughout the day. I’m really chuffed. Made the cut on the number and a good weekend,” said Burmester, who showed his love and understanding of the Old Course when he also finished as the leading South African in last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship here in tied seventh place.

“I’m over the moon. Best finish in a Major. I’m really happy with the way I progressed and how comfortable I felt out there. I didn’t feel out of place. And that to me says a lot. And maybe one day I can lift one of these things.”

Burmester’s final round performance highlighted the character with which he plays the game.

“I learn never to give up, honestly. There was a stage there on Friday when we had the wind switch and I was just playing into the wind, the back nine. It was just so hard, and I was grinding it out. Never gave up and birdied the last to make the cut on the number. And I took that momentum and confidence into the weekend. So anything’s possible, just never give up. I think that’s just a good mantra for me.”

Dylan Frittelli finished the week on eight under par, with Thriston Lawrence on six under, Garrick Higgo on five under, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout on two under.

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17th July 2022

Frittelli flies high with two eagles in St Andrews

Dylan Frittelli’s love for links golf continues as he heads into Sunday’s final round of the 150th Open Championship in tied 18th place on six under par.

Frittelli did exactly what he said he was going to do, namely make a move up the leaderboard on day three. And he did so while feeling he didn’t have his best golf with him, despite two eagles on the par-four ninth and 18th holes for his third-round 69.

“Not my best golf at times, but I somehow threw two crazy hole-outs in there,” he said.

“The ninth hole was a terrible tee shot. I hit it in the fairway or greenside bunker and had 45 yards to the pin. I was just trying to get it up there on the green on nine and it somehow went in. On 18, I hit a great tee shot. I thought it would get up on the green, but it didn’t. I had a tricky one from the Valley of Sin there but somehow made that one as well. The rest was a bit patchy but happy with the overall score.”

Frittelli is 10 shots off the shared lead of Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland. McIlroy and Hovland lead the field by four shots, with Cameron Smith and Cameron Young their nearest challengers.

Frittelli has had his best Major performances in The Open, including fifth in 2021 and tied 32nd in 2019. Add his fifth place in The Masters in 2020, and Frittelli is showing he’s more than capable of winning a Major.

Dean Burmester is the next best-placed South African on five under par following a third round of 67. Christiaan Bezuidenhout will start the final round on four under par, with Thriston Lawrence at three under and Garrick Higgo at one over.

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16th July 2022

Thriston still tops for SA

Thriston Lawrence remains at the forefront of the South African challenge heading into the weekend of the 150th Open Championship in St Andrews.

The South African posted a second round of 71 to come through 36 holes on four under par overall. Australia’s Cameron Smith leads the field on 13 under par following a magnificent 64 on the Old Course on Friday.

Smith is two clear of American Cameron Young, while Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland are three shots off the lead.

Tiger Woods failed to make the cut of level par and bowed out of this milestone Open at nine over. South Africa’s Justin Harding, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Zander Lombard, Shaun Norris and amateur Aldrich Potgieter also failed to make the cut.

But Garrick Higgo (-3), Dylan Frittelli (-3), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (level) and Dean Burmester (level) joined Lawrence in going through to the final 36 holes.

Frittelli in particular said he was looking forward to the weekend.

“I’ll go as low as I can. On Saturday I’ll go out in the morning, try to knock down all the pins and make every putt I look at. Try to shoot 6-, 7-under.”

And he’ll have enough time to watch the Test series decider between the Springboks and Wales on Saturday.

“Last week was really disappointing. I didn’t catch the first game. I was in the States and the timing didn’t work out. The second game I watched when I was in Scotland. I’ll definitely have enough time to get back to the room and watch it. But hopefully the Boks can get it done.”

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15th July 2022

Lawrence leads SA charge in St Andrews

As far as Major debuts go it was a memorable one for Thriston Lawrence as he led the South African challenge on day one of the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course on Thursday.

Lawrence, who qualified for The Open with his maiden DP World Tour victory in last year’s Joburg Open, opened with a round of three-under-par 69 to place him tied 13th behind leader Cameron Young of America.

Young signed for an eight-under-par 64 and leads by two shots over Rory McIlroy. Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent is also tied 13th.

Ernie Els made a memorable start in this most significant Open Championship as he birdied his first two holes and was five under through 15. But a finish where he dropped three shots in two holes, including a double bogey on the  infamous Road Hole 17th, saw him sign for a two-under-par 70.

“Yeah, it was good. Obviously just that one hole burning me at the moment. I played good. I putted nice and played good. I just had that one frickin’ tee shot on 17. Anyway, that’s my day,” said the winner of the 2002 and 2012 Opens.

“I played well overall. Hit it in play and hit good iron shots and played the course the way you should play it. Just felt comfortable. As I said, just that one shot is going to keep burning me until tomorrow.

“I haven’t played links golf since last year. I only came in Monday afternoon. I needed to get over the jet lag and never really had a proper practice round. I needed to find my feet, and that’s what I did, and I felt comfortable today. The golf course is playing fast. I’m under-par, which is good. I’ve got to take the positives when I start thinking about it.”

Dylan Frittelli joined Els on two under.

Louis Oosthuizen, winner of The Open here in 2010, began his week with a round of one-under-par 71.

Countryman Dean Burmester also signed for a 71. “I hit a lot of good golf shots but I missed too many short putts. I missed three or four putts inside five feet. That’s kind of cost me a good score today. It’s the 150th Open so a little bit of nerves. It’s only human to be a little nervous out there. I had a couple of bad reads, but it’s the nature of the game. That’s links golf,” he said.