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30th August 2022

Memorable season earns Lawrence a debut in ‘Africa’s Major’

Thriston Lawrence, who this past weekend won his second DP World Tour title, will make his debut in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City from November 10-13, 2022, in what has already been a season of memorable firsts for the South African.

Lawrence broke through with his maiden DP World Tour victory in the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club in November 2021. It was an historic victory as he became the first winner in the new DP World Tour era. He then added a second triumph in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland this past Sunday, where he beat Matt Wallace in a playoff.

The Joburg Open also forms part of The Open Qualifying Series, and Lawrence’s victory there earned him a place in his first Major at this year’s 150th Open in St Andrews where he finished tied 42nd.

The 25-year-old South African will now take up his place in “Africa’s Major” for the first time in his career, and in the prestigious 40thanniversary of this iconic tournament.

Lawrence adds to a field which already includes defending champion and European Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood, PGA TOUR winner Will Zalatoris, and fellow South African and multiple DP World Tour champion Dean Burmester.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be joining such a quality field for the 40thanniversary of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. My breakthrough DP World Tour victory in the Joburg Open opened so many doors for me this season, and to follow that up with a second victory in the Omega European Masters is very pleasing. I also played in my first Major, which was an historic one with it being the 150th Open in St Andrews. I feel just as privileged to be teeing it up in the historic 40th edition of ‘Africa’s Major’ at Sun City this November,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence’s Joburg Open victory set him up for a strong season on the DP World Tour. He had a run of three top-10s in three consecutive DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned tournaments when he finished tied second in the Magical Kenya Open, tied ninth in the MyGolfLife Open hosted by Pecanwood, and tied eighth in the Steyn City Championship. He followed this with a third-place finish in the Horizon Irish Open and tied eighth in the D+D Real Czech Masters before breaking through with his victory in the Omega European Masters which has carried Lawrence into the top 10 on the DP World Tour Rankings.

Tickets for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, starting at R40 for the Pro-Ams and R250 for Tournament Rounds, are available here, while Hospitality Packages for the Circa Champions Club, Circa Pavilion or Circa 18th Green can be purchased here. The 2019 edition of the Nedbank Golf Challenge delivered record attendance figures and sold-out hospitality.

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29th August 2022

Another milestone weekend for SA golfers

South African professional golf enjoyed one of its most successful weekends in history with multiple triumphs around the world.

On the DP World Tour, Thriston Lawrence claimed his second win this season when he beat Matt Wallace in playoff for the Omega European Masters. The win moved Lawrence into the top 10 on the DP World Tour Rankings and into the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

“It’s a privilege to be able to take this victory. There’s so much history around this event, all the past champions. It’s a dream come true (moving into the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking). Growing up, you always want to be in the top 100 in the world and to achieve it is quite emotional,” Lawrence told the DP World Tour media.

On the Legends Tour, veteran Sunshine Tour professional Adilson da Silva claimed his maiden victory in the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship.

“To be very honest about it, me and my wife we sat down a couple of months ago…we were considering opening a driving range and that’s how things were going. We had some tough times and I’m glad that we hung in there and she gave me quite a lot of support to try the Legends Tour and hang in there, so I was very fortunate,” Da Silva told the Legends Tour media.

On the LPGA Tour, Paula Reto broke through with her first victory in the CP Women’s Open. “I’m really so excited. I know I’m going to celebrate and everything will kick in, but I’m really happy and it’s been such a long time. I was like, I hope one day I’ll win. But it came true,” Reto told the LPGA Tour media.

“Ashleigh (Buahi) was such an inspiration, especially being the AIG Women’s Open champion. She was so calm and so great on those playoff holes. I told myself, you know what? I can also do it. I also want to do it. Being able to win on the LPGA is such a dream, and even being from South Africa.”

Dean Burmester capped a memorable weekend by securing his PGA TOUR card for the next season.

“Boom! I love it. I’ve got goosebumps,” a delighted Burmester told the media. “It’s been a long road. Now I’ve got goosebumps of where I’m heading to – the number one tour in the world and the best job in the world. I’m just excited.” – Michael Vlismas

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Lawrence is King of the Mountains in Switzerland

Thriston Lawrence claimed his second DP World Tour title of the season after beating Matt Wallace in a tense play-off to win the 2022 Omega European Masters.

The South African began the day with a three-shot lead but was caught at the summit at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club by a charging Wallace after 16 holes on Sunday.

With both players parring the 17th and 18th to finish on 18 under par, a play-off was required to decide the winner.

And with Wallace unable to save par at the first extra hole, a four was good enough to hand Lawrence victory on his maiden visit to Crans Montana, sparking jubilant scenes on the 18th green.

Lawrence, who was the first winner of the DP World Tour era at the Joburg Open in November after that event was reduced to 36 holes, moves up to ninth on the DP World Tour Rankings.

The 25-year-old made four birdies, a double bogey and a bogey on Sunday to sign for a closing 69.

Wallace, meanwhile, posted a bogey-free 66 to finish two shots ahead of fellow Englishman Richard Mansell in third.

Lawrence began the day on 17 under and picked up an early birdie after holing from 32 feet at the third.

He surrendered a costly double bogey at the fifth after getting into tree trouble off the tee, reducing his lead to one.

A bounce-back gain at the sixth was followed by a stunning hole-out birdie from a tricky spot in the rough around the ninth green, keeping Lawrence one clear at the turn.

Lawrence’s 21-foot birdie attempt at the tenth caught the right edge of the hole but did not drop.

He drained his birdie putt from a similar distance at the 12th, though, to give himself a two-shot cushion.

Lawrence got a big slice of luck at the 14th after catching a branch with his second shot but had to settle for a par there after his ten-foot birdie putt just missed.

Playing partner Wallace made a birdie at the same hole to cut the gap at the top to one shot.

And when Lawrence dropped a shot at the 16th, he had Wallace for company at the summit.

A two-shot swing looked possible at the 17th as Lawrence played a sensational bunker shot to set up a birdie chance, while Wallace had to make a good up-and-down to save par.

But with both players making fours there, they were tied heading down the last, where they each made par to take it to extra holes.

Wallace’s approach found the very back of the green and he could not get down in two, meaning Lawrence’s par was enough to earn the trophy.

Lawrence was thrilled to enter the winner’s circle at the 50th staging of the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour.

He said: “It’s a privilege to be able to take this victory. There’s so much history around this event, all the past champions, so I can’t wait to get my hands on that trophy. It’s a tricky golf course, you can lose a few shots, especially around the 14th, 15th, par fives – you can make a silly mistake and another guy can make birdies. But I’m just happy with my patience this week and I’m just so pleased to be able to win this week.”

Speaking about moving into the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking, Lawrence added: “It’s a dream come true. Growing up, you always want to be in the top 100 in the world and to achieve it is quite emotional.” – DP World Tour

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27th August 2022

Relief as Michael makes his breakthrough in Vodacom Origins

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – After 12 years on tour and more than his fair share of close calls, heartache and injuries, Anthony Michael finally claimed his first victory on the Sunshine Tour in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate on Saturday.

Michael signed for a final round of 69 to win on 10 under par, one shot clear of Herman Loubser and Wynand Dingle. Dingle had a four-foot putt on the last to force a playoff with Michael but missed.

“I’m over the moon. After so many years and so many runner-up finishes, I felt like I wasn’t carrying just a monkey on my back anymore. It felt like a gorilla,” said a relieved Michael.

Even as he stood on the 18th green with Dingle about to putt, Michael was steeling himself for another missed opportunity. “I’ve been in that position so many times where I’ve missed a putt and given away the tournament. So I was preparing myself for the playoff. When Wynand missed there was just massive relief.”

The victory comes after a tough period in which Michael has battled his way through a painful elbow injury and the recovery process.

“I was playing through the pain up to the point where I could barely hold a golf club anymore. I went for treatment and it put me out for four months. It was a tough time because this is how I earn a living, so it put a lot of pressure on me. I’m also getting married in two months’ time, so there were those financial considerations as well. But my sponsor Betway has been unbelievable in their support of me.

“I’m just so relieved. I’ve seen all my friends on the Sunshine Tour win, and after 12 years of being on tour you wonder if it will ever happen.” – Michael Vlismas

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26th August 2022

Musician Dingle hoping for a hit with Vodacom Origins win

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – Wynand Dingle, a man with a talent for playing a guitar and golf equally well, is hunting his maiden Sunshine Tour victory as he heads into Saturday’s final round tied for the lead with Combrinck Smit and Anthony Michael at the Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate.

Dingle singed for a 69 at Highland Gate on Friday to climb to seven under par, joining overnight leader Smit (70) and Michael (69) in a share of the lead.

They are two strokes clear of the group of Jaco Prinsloo, Jacques Blaauw, James Hart du Preez and Brooklin Bailey.

Jean Hugo, a record 11-time champion on the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, is just three strokes off the lead. He’s joined there by Herman Loubser, who scored a hole-in-one during his 69 on Friday.

Of the three leaders, Dingle is an intriguing prospect going into the final round. He is tantalisingly close to a breakthrough win on the Sunshine Tour. Her challenged for the FBC Zim Open in May before a triple bogey on the 17th saw him finish ninth. Then he finished tied third in the FNB eSwatini Nkonyeni Challenge in July to further fuel his belief that a win is close.

“I’ve been playing well for quite some time but haven’t managed to put it together in tournament golf. I play a lot of social golf with my friends on the Sunshine Tour who have won and they often tell me it’s a mystery that I haven’t been able to take that form into tournament golf. So I’m really pleased to be in this position. I haven’t won yet on the Sunshine Tour and that’s the goal for me,” Dingle said.

“Highland Gate is not an easy course, and the wind really got up on Friday so it was challenging but I managed to hang in there. But what a golf course this is. It’s a special place.” – Michael Vlismas


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Vodacom helps young golfers take a swing at their dreams

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – A golf club can be a gateway to dreams, and that’s the clear message the young golfers from the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) were given as they took part in a development clinic with Sunshine Tour professionals at this week’s Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at the Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate.

It’s a message wholly endorsed by Dr Ntombi Mhangwani, the Executive Head of Department for Vodacom Business Marketing, who was there to support the 18 young golfers from the SAGDB who form part of a partnership with the Vodacom Origins of Golf series that stretches back decades in terms of its support of golf development.

“In a country like South Africa, with the levels of inequality we have, certain life experiences like golf courses are natural for some but for others it is completely foreign. If we want to nullify these inequalities then we have to reach the disadvantaged areas as well,” Mhangwani said as the young golfers, between the ages of seven and 16, from the Nelspruit, Lydenburg and Dullstroom districts were happily hitting balls on the Highland Gate driving range under the watchful eye of the Sunshine Tour professionals giving of their time to provide some coaching.

“These learners will paint their picture of life out of what they believe is possible, and this is how we can build dreams by showing them as we make golf more accessible to young people who otherwise wouldn’t have this opportunity.

“When Vodacom says it wants to inspire change by going Further Together, we mean we want to develop together. So that means building and giving back to the communities that are our consumer base.

“The only way to do that is by working in partnerships with the communities and giving their children exposure. It’s not about throwing money at the problem, but about authentic partnerships,” Mhangwani said.

Vodacom’s involvement in golf goes way beyond just its support of the professionals on the Sunshine Tour – the Vodacom Origins of Golf series is the longest-running pro-am series on the Sunshine Tour. Closely aligned to its sponsorship of this series is the golf development aspect that underpins every single tournament wherever it is played in South Africa.

Partnering with the SAGDB to show the younger generation that golf can be a pathway to success is one of Vodacom’s key vehicles for change, and the purpose and life skills golf can give to learners is something Mhangwani loves about the game.

“Golf is about a value system, training and discipline, and that can permeate into these youngsters’ schooling, their lives at home and choosing the right friends. Champions are also born out of watching other champions practice, and passing on their knowledge and skills. Exposure builds potential, and it allows these learners to dream.

“If even one person at these golf clinics looks at the game and says that they want to be part of golf, they want to do that too, then we have succeeded in giving somebody an opportunity,” she said.

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25th August 2022

Inspired Smit leads Vodacom Origins

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – The sheer beauty of the Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate was enough to inspire Combrinck Smit to take a one-stroke lead in Thursday’s first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf.

Smit opened with a five-under-par 67 and tops the leaderboard ahead of a group of four players on four under including rookie professional Casey Jarvis, Anthony Michael, Wynand Dingle and Chile’s Matias Calderon.

This is the second time in Smit’s career that he leads a Sunshine tour event. The last time was in 2018 when he led going into the final round of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship only to finish second behind Calderon, the very man just one shot behind him on the leaderboard this week.

“Coming to Highland Gate is always a pleasure. The views are spectacular and the course is very appealing to the eye. I especially love the contrast between the green grass of the course and then the brown veld. The firm fairways here also work for me. But it’s always a good test with its quick greens and tough flag positions,” said Smit.

Smit took full advantage of his strong driving game and picked up shots on all but one of the par fives.

“I really took good advantage of the par fives. All my best drives were on the par fives and having short irons into the greens also helped.”

With two rounds still to go in this event, Smit is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead.

“I haven’t been at the top of a leaderboard in a while, and this is only the first round. There is still a lot of golf to be played on this course. Hopefully I can make a few more putts and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Jarvis, formerly South Africa’s number one amateur before he turned professional, will be delighted with his 68 in only his second Sunshine Tour event this season. – Michael Vlismas


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Nielsen Sports South Africa joins forces with the Sunshine Tour

Nielsen Sports South Africa has concluded a strategic research partnership with the Sunshine Tour – Southern Africa’s men’s professional golf tour.

Nielsen Sports is the market’s leading source of sports measurement and analytics around the world, with solutions spanning cross-platform media valuation, fan insights, and digital and social media analysis. In this way, Nielsen provides a comprehensive, fair playing field for the business of media, with its unbiased metrics creating the shared understanding of the industry required for markets to function.

“We are very excited to form a partnership with the Sunshine Tour,” says Jean Willers, Managing Director of Nielsen Sports South Africa. “As the leading provider of sports measurement and market research, we are proud to be partnering with one of the world’s leading professional golf tours.”

Nielsen Sports South Africa works across the entire local sports industry, including with rights-holders, brands, agencies and broadcasters.

Those brands include both local and international brands with a presence in South Africa, with the likes of Toyota, Red Bull, and FNB all making use of Nielsen’s Sports SA’s services, whilst their rights-holder partners include Cricket South Africa, SA Rugby, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns.

This cross-section of partners, covering all segments of the South African sports industry, ensures Nielsen Sports SA maintains its market-leading position, with the Sunshine Tour the latest prominent sports brand to see value in what the measurement and data giant has to offer.

“Creating value for our partners and sponsors is one of our main goals, because it allows us to translate this value back to our members,” says Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour. “Nielsen Sports South Africa have consistently shown themselves to be the leader in data analysis and research on this front, and we believe they will give us an even better understanding of our market and how to maximise this value and grow the Sunshine Tour.”

According to Willers, Nielsen Sports SA believes it can play a strategic role in enhancing the Sunshine Tour’s commercial partnerships.

“Thomas and his team have done an excellent job at bringing in new sponsors and our role will be to assist him in providing those sponsors with the measurement and data to stay within the Tour,” he says. “We are going to ensure we provide the Sunshine Tour with the latest local and global research, data, and insights that will assist them in making the best commercial decisions for the Tour.”

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24th August 2022

Bruiners and Botha bag ProAm win at Vodacom Origins of Golf

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – Heinrich Bruiners praised his amateur partner Anton Botha for the way he rose to the occasion on their closing holes to win the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series ProAm at Highland Gate Golf and Trout Estate on Wednesday.

Bruiners and Botha won by three points in the end, but they were closely pursued by James Hart du Preez and Navin Maharaj, and needed a birdie at their final hole, the par-four 10th, to get them over the line.

“It was really fun and to have a competitive event before our Sunshine Tour tournament is nice,” Bruiners said. “We were in the lead from yesterday and I just said to Anton down the stretch that we needed to be a bit more aggressive and go for the win.

“We had such a good partnership and I thought birdie at the last would be enough. Anton sank his putt for birdie and then I made one too just for a nice finish.

“But I really needed him on the last few holes and he pulled through on four or five holes,” Bruiners said.

With the ProAm now done, the 34-year-old Bruiners will turn his focus to the R1.15 million Vodacom Origins of Golf Sunshine Tour event starting at the mountainous Highland Gate course on Thursday.

“It’s a good omen to win the ProAm and now it’s down to business from tomorrow. I’m swinging well and I finished 11th last week in Pretoria, a bogey at the last cost me a lot, including a top-10 place.

“But it was still a decent performance and now I go into this tournament after playing good golf for two days. Every time I come Mpumalanga or Limpopo side, I seem to play well – it must be something in the air!” the George product said.

He has also been won over by the Highland Gate course.

“When I came four or five years ago, I didn’t enjoy the course so much. I must have been in a very bad mental space though because this course is unbelievable, one of my favourites, definitely in the top-10.

“I’ve got a different perspective now. It’s such a quiet environment out on the course, there’s not so much going on and you feel excluded from all the hustle and bustle,” Bruiners said.

For eight-handicapper Botha, a production manager for Schoeman Boerdery in Groblersdal, his maiden Vodacom Origins of Golf ProAm will give him a lifetime of memories, as well as a place in the final at Pinnacle Point from October 24-27.

“It was just unbelievable, the whole estate and Vodacom’s organisation was amazing. My highlight was the final hole when things were still tight. We both made birdies, I had a three-metre putt, but the monster drive I hit was my best shot of the tournament!” Botha said.

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23rd August 2022

How golf saved comedian David Kau

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – The ability of golf to be an agent for good both in terms of communities and individuals is well-known.

The Vodacom Origins of Golf Series is into its 18th season, and in that time it has influenced so many lives and communities for the better. But there is someone playing in the Highland Gate Pro-Am event this week who has been touched by the game in a special way.

David Kau is known for being one of South Africa’s most popular stand-up comedians and he has been an MC at the pro-am dinner for the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series before.

But the 18-handicapper has never actually played in the event before Tuesday, and his excitement was palpable before his round. Mostly because, as he put it, he has “fallen in love” with golf.

A lot of that love comes from the fact that golf helped him through the toughest of times during the Covid-19 pandemic. As an entertainer, he was particularly hard-hit.

“I only started playing golf three years ago, but now I’m like a mad man when it comes to the game,” Kau says.

“During Covid I did a lot of social media work with my 1.4 million followers across platforms, and I kind of survived. But there was never a live audience, so it’s not the same. I refuse to do stand-up comedy in front of a laptop because you never know what people are doing on the other side.

“But golf, mentally, helped me so much when I was not making any money. Those four-to-five hour walks did a lot of good to me. It’s crazy, I’ve played eight times in the last two weeks because I have fallen in love with golf. Mentally it has done a lot for me and I’m also walking seven or eight kilometres so I don’t need gym, unless I go do some weights so my drives can be a bit longer,” Kau laughed.

As a comedian, Kau is aware that the smile on the face is not always indicative of the struggles going on in the interior of a person. Mental health issues are close to his heart, and he recognises the strain that formerly disadvantaged Black professionals can be under as they try to make it in a highly-competitive industry.

“I’ve done a lot of mental health work and before Covid I started getting involved with online therapists, doing podcasts and things. There is definitely a mental health connection to golf.

“Not many of us play better when we’re worried about something, and for Black professionals it’s even more difficult. And you’re on your own out on the course, your coach or psychologist can’t walk on and help you. These are guys who have to use public transport just to train, getting into a taxi with a golf bag. Mentally it’s amazing what sports people go through, but they can get adrenaline from the fans. But some of them play better with a big crowd and others get the jitters,” Kau said.

Although making his Vodacom Origins of Golf Series debut on Tuesday, Kau has played in other pro-ams before and certainly did not have the jitters around the magnificent Highland Gate layout, which provides a stern test nestled inside the Steenkampsberg mountains of Mpumalanga.

He and veteran Sunshine Tour pro Jaco van Zyl were four-under-par and inside the top-20 after the first round.