SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

26th February 2023

Mostert birdies last to win at Humewood

GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – Dylan Mostert birdied the last to win the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship by a single stroke at Humewood Golf Club on Sunday, and earn his second Sunshine Tour title and his first on the European Challenge Tour.

Mostert stood over a three-metre birdie putt on the final green that he needed to separate himself from fellow South African Jaco Prinsloo, whose storming 62 had earned him the clubhouse lead on 15 under par.

And Mostert took the words of his sports psychologist to heart as he rolled in the putt for a final round of 67 and victory on 16 under par.

“We spent a lot of time talking before this tournament and the main message was for me to just stay calm. My mental game definitely got me through this week. That’s what won me the golf tournament,” said Mostert after a solid final round performance in gusting conditions.

“I was so relieved when I holed that birdie putt to win. It was a grind the whole week with the wind. The golf course was difficult for me. But once you taste victory like this you just want more of it. To be a two-time winner is a great achievement for me.”

Mostert will now continue his journey on the Challenge Tour as he chases a new goal of gaining a DP World Tour card.

“Winning is hard, and this is such a relief. The standard of golf on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour is so good. All the golfers out here are hungry and want to win and move to the next level in their careers. I’m definitely going to play Challenge Tour events this year. Casey Jarvis and I will tour together, and the main goal is to get that DP World Tour card, so I’ll put my head down and go for that.”

Ireland’s Ruaidhri McGee (64), Italy’s Lorenzo Scalise (68), Frenchman Tom Vaillant (71) and South African JJ Senekal (70) shared third place on 14 under par.

This was the final event of the four-tournament South African Swing between the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, with Southern African golfers making a clean sweep.

Zimbabwean Benjamin Follett-Smith won the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open followed by South Africa’s Oliver Bekker winning the Dimension Data Pro-Am, JJ Senekal winning the SDC Open and now Mostert winning in Gqeberha. – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

25th February 2023

A Vaillant effort to still lead in Humewood wind

GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – The wind arrived at Humewood Golf Club on Saturday, and it shook up the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship leaderboard like a three-legged washing machine on full spin cycle.

Frenchman Tom Vaillant did well to hold on to his overnight lead with a fighting 73 for a total of 13 under par in third-round conditions which Humewood General Manager Brendon Timm described as “a day when the birds walk rather than fly”.

“It felt like the wind was 100km/h in my head. I just tried to fight as much as possible. It was some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in. I just fought as hard as I could. In this wind you don’t have to try and make birdies. You’re just trying to keep the ball safe,” said the battle-weary Frenchman.

“The final round will just be me against the golf course and the conditions. It’s my first year on tour and I know I can win. I’ll try and do my best.”

Vaillant’s nearest challenger is South Africa’s JJ Senekal on 12 under par following his 71, and he’s looking for back-to-back wins on this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour South African Swing.

“The front nine played ridiculously hard. The first six holes are brutal straight into the wind. You’re hitting driver and seven iron and driver and five iron into every hole there. It’s a brutal start to the golf course in this wind. But I’m in a good spot one shot back,” said Senekal.

And then South Africa’s Hennie O’Kennedy, Brandon Stone and Dylan Mostert as well as Englishman Josh Hilleard and American Dan Erickson are lined up on 11 under.

“I think that’s the best round of three under par I’ve ever shot in my life,” said Mostert following his 69. “On the 15th I had a putt that I’d read as a cup outside on the left, and I aimed a ball right because of the wind, and I still missed it on the left.”

As tough as it was, the likes of O’Kennedy still made six consecutive birdies over the turn, Stone birdied three of his final four holes, Hilleard holed out for eagle on the par-four ninth and then added another eagle on the 11th, Senekal had an eagle and two birdies on a tough back nine, and Vaillant birdied two of his final four holes.

The Humewood locals were pleased. They’d come to see just how the Sunshine Tour’s finest handle the wind that batters their regular league matches on this historic links.

And they nodded their approval. – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

24th February 2023

Senekal chasing more glory at Humewood

GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – South Africa’s JJ Senekal is hunting back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour as he heads into the weekend of the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship just three strokes off the lead at Humewood Golf Club.

Senekal won last week’s SDC Open in wire-to-wire fashion and has carried that form to Humewood, with a second round of 67 on Friday lifting him to 11 under par and chasing the 14 under par lead held by Frenchman Tom Vaillant following his 64. Swede Adam Blommé also came through 36 holes on 11 under following a 70 on Friday.

“I’m just riding the momentum of last week,” said Senekal as he looks forward to another strong weekend of being in contention.

After his victory last week Senekal took up membership of the Challenge Tour, and seeing his name in third place on their Road to Mallorca rankings has certainly inspired him.

“That’s when the victory kind of really sunk in for me. Now it’s a case of putting my foot on the gas and seeing if I can win three of them this season and get to the DP World Tour, or end as high as I can to get that DP World Tour card,” he said.

Friday’s stiff breeze had a few Humewood locals nodding their heads in approval, but the scoring was still impressive and Frenchman Vaillant set the clubhouse target of 14 under with his 64 in the morning.

“I’m quite comfortable on a links course,” said Vaillant. “My style of play is to just hit my target and not be too aggressive, and that’s what you have to do on links golf courses. It was great. I hit almost all of my targets and it helped me to go low.”

Senekal also felt the sharper focus Friday’s wind brought to his game.

“I played solid and made a couple of long putts. It was tougher out there with the wind but I kept my composure pretty well after I made a double bogey on the par-three sixth and then came back strong with an eagle and made my day worthwhile at the end. The wind protects this golf course and you need the wind for it to play to its true potential. Today was a good show of that.”

And it’s set him up for a tantalising weekend of possibly more success.

“Last week I was protecting a lead. This time I can go and chase it. On this golf course anything can happen quickly. Hopefully I can put another good round together and then have a shot on Sunday.” – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

23rd February 2023

Blommé blossoms at windless Humewood with 63

GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – Sweden’s Adam Blommé uses his words with the same precision as a scalpel as he describes the course strategy that earned him a 63 and the first-round lead in the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship at Humewood Golf Club on Thursday. “Keep the ball in play. Hit greens. Make putts. Nothing new”.

His round of nine under par puts him one stroke clear of South Africa’s Pieter Moolman, with the quartet of South African Anthony Michael, Frenchman Ugo Coussaud, Scotland’s Craig Howie, England’s Jack Singh Brar and Swede Henric Sturehed all well placed on seven under par in this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.

And then Blommé adds, “No links shots whatsoever today”. That was the most telling comment on day one of this tournament on South Africa’s most historic links golf course. Blommé took full advantage of the ideal conditions and the lack of wind to entrench his number one status on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca standings, and confirm his good form coming into this event.

“We were lucky with the draw. There was no wind out there in the morning,” he said on a day when one of his playing partners, Ireland’s Conor Purcell, remarked that it was hard to believe his own round of five under par was the worst score in their group.

“This course is built for wind. We need the wind to pick up to make it challenging. I wouldn’t mind a bit of wind to be honest,” said Moolman.

The first round certainly rewarded the in-form golfers in what is the fourth and final event on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour’s South African Swing.

Blommé has finished second and tied seventh in his last two tournaments in South Africa. Behind him, Moolman has finished no worse than 14th in his last three tournaments. And in the group on seven under, Coussaud has finished no worse than 13thin his previous three tournaments in South Africa.

When you consider that further back on six under par lies JJ Senekal, last week’s SDC Open champion, and Casey Jarvis, who has finished in the top-10 in his last two tournaments, then it will take something to separate a group of golfers all playing very well at present. – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

22nd February 2023

The Score with Ockie Strydom

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s Player Blog.

Ockie Strydom has had a life-changing three months in which he’s won twice on the DP World Tour, including the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

Winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship was a big breakthrough for me. The Alfred Dunhill Championship was one that I always wanted to win. To be able to win this title at a course like Leopard Creek showed me that I do have the game to win again. And that made the victory in the Singapore Classic that much easier for me.

I had 19 runner-up finishes before my victory at Leopard Creek. It was always on my mind – if I would ever win on the DP World Tour. Especially after so many second places. I just focused on what I could control. Technically, my coach Doug Wood and I worked on my clubface in the week of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, and to square it up as it was closed at the top of my swing. And then the physio helped me get through the week physically. My back was under big pressure and I was in quite a bit of pain that week.

The chip on the 18th in Singapore was probably one of the best chips I have ever played under pressure. I was really calm throughout the final round. I had two options on that chip and I decided to go for the bump and run. For safety reasons really. And it worked out perfectly.

I didn’t ever think my second DP World Tour victory would come so quickly. To be honest I didn’t even think I would ever win the Alfred Dunhill Championship. But in Singapore I just went out and enjoyed myself, and I’m very grateful it led to a second title for me so soon.

These two victories have done so much for me. It’s given me the self-belief to know I belong out here and that I can compete against the top players in the world.

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

Lombard loving his return to Humewood

GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – Zander Lombard had a broad smile on his face as he walked the rolling fairways of Humewood Golf Club in his practice round ahead of this week’s Nelson Mandela Bay Championship. “This smells like amateur golf and all those great memories,” he said.

Memories of Humewood and Lombard’s highly successful amateur days came flooding back to him at a time when he now returns to this venerable links as an accomplished professional in tremendous form going into this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned event. In his last three tournaments on the DP World Tour, Lombard has finished tied second, tied sixth and tied 17th, placing him 20th on the Race to Dubai rankings.

“I’ve been playing really solid golf and I’m just looking to keep building on that. It’s great to be able to come back home and play golf courses like this one again. As an amateur I remember winning the Inter-Provincial Tournament with Gauteng North here in 2010. We used to play this course so much as amateurs and it’s just such a great golf course to come back to.” Lombard also finished fourth in the Eastern Province Stroke Play at Humewood in 2013.

“This is a special place,” said Lombard.

It is indeed a unique week for specifically the Sunshine Tour professionals, playing a links course that has hosted five Investec South African Opens, with Ernie Els winning his national Open here in 2006. It’s a golf course that has a framed letter written by Bobby Locke in its clubhouse in which he declares his fondness for this layout. And at its heart is a mercurial set of fairways and greens, the sheer unpredictability of which is what Lombard so loves about the links game.

“I love links golf for exactly that reason – its unpredictability. We are very hard on ourselves as professionals. But when you play links golf, you can’t control the kind of bounces you’re going to get and that almost gives you a break from that accountability. You see different lines and aim points here. I love the creativity of it.”

Gqeberha local Lyle Rowe, who knows this course better than most and is relishing playing in front of his home fans this week, echoes this approach.

“When you play this golf course, you need to be patient. You’ll get good and bad bounces that are out of your control, and that’s links golf.”

The other defence of this course is the wind, but it’s been a fairly calm build-up to Thursday’s first round.

“It would be nice if there’s a little breeze for this golf course. It just makes it a little bit more interesting,” said Rowe.

This is the fourth and final tournament of the Sunshine Tour-Challenge Tour South African Swing. It’s been a good run so far for the Southern Africans on this stretch with wins by Zimbabwe’s Benjamin Follett-Smith and South Africans Oliver Bekker and JJ Senekal in the last three tournaments. – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

19th February 2023

Senekal enjoys wire-to-wire win in SDC Open

BELA-BELA (Limpopo) – As JJ Senekal drove to the Zebula golf course for Sunday’s final round of the SDC Open, his new favourite playlist was on the car radio. The volume was turned up to 21. That’s when he decided to turn it up to 25, to match his desired target of 25 under par to win this tournament.

A few hours later, Senekal rolled in a birdie putt on the 18th to win this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour tournament with a final round of 65 and by four strokes. On 25 under par.

“It was very emotional. I put a lot of hard work into this starting from the beginning of last year. It all comes down to hard work. This means the world to me. I was knocking for quite a while now and this week was a good example of staying patient, playing good golf and knowing what to do and when to do it,” Senekal said after his wire-to-wire victory.

Casey Jarvis took second place on 21 under par with a closing 67, and the young South African threw everything at Senekal during a thrilling back nine in which he chipped in for eagle on the 15th and then holed a huge birdie putt on 16 to close to within one shot of Senekal with two holes to play.

But the par-three 17th proved the differentiator as Senekal birdied the hole and Jarvis made bogey after missing the green with his tee shot. That gave Senekal a three-shot lead playing the 18th.

“Keeping Casey off my back was hard. Well done to him. He played an unbelievable round of golf. He really chased me down on the back nine. He started firing over the last few holes but I did what I needed to and hit some good golf shots,” said Senekal.

But even with a three-shot lead, Senekal delivered an incredible approach that left him with a two-foot putt for birdie on the 18th.

“It was a big relief. I thought I’d hit it short but once you see the ball next to the hole and you know you’ve got a three-shot lead and are tapping in for birdie, it’s all the pressure off your shoulders. It feels amazing. It’s been five years since my last win. To finally get it done is a great feeling.”

Senekal also won himself a 20-year Zebula Holiday Villa Share worth R320 000. – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

18th February 2023

Senekal stays in front at SDC Open

BELA-BELA (Limpopo) – JJ Senekal held on to his place at the top of the SDC Open leaderboard as he weathered a cold putter, intermittent rain and a few surges from his fellow professionals to place him two shots clear of the field going into Sunday’s final round at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa.

Senekal signed for a third round of 69 to lead on 18 under par. His nearest challenger is Casey Jarvis on 16 under following his round of 66. Jaco Prinsloo and Martin Vorster are both three shots off the lead after their rounds of 66 and 68 respectively.

At 14:00, play was stopped for a minute’s silence in remembrance of former DP World Tour Chief Referee, John Paramo, who passed away last Friday at the age of 67.

Senekal has led from day one of this tournament and been remarkably composed despite the frustration of not always having his best putting game with him.

“It wasn’t the best round of golf I’ve ever played. From tee to green it was pretty good, but 32 putts was frustrating. I hit good putts here and there but the reading wasn’t very good. I gave myself a lot of opportunities but the putter just wasn’t working,” he said after a round of four birdies and one bogey.

“I was expecting people to charge and they did. Casey had a good round. But I managed to keep myself in it and I’ve got a shot tomorrow.”

Jarvis produced another strong charge to be in contention once again this season. After his eagle on the 15th he didn’t get the finish he wanted as he bogeyed two of his final three holes when the rain suddenly came down again.

“I played really solid the whole day and I rolled in a lot of putts. The way I’m striking the ball I feel really in control of my game at the moment. I’ve been in this position before so hopefully I’ve learnt from the past. I’ve just got to stay patient. In the past I’ve been a little rushed, but I’ve just got to stay patient out there,” he said as he looks forward to a possible maiden victory on the Sunshine Tour.

Patience will certainly be the theme for the final group, with the more experienced Senekal taking the same approach.

“You just have to stay in the moment. If you’re not nervous you’re not ready. There is obviously pressure but you have to keep it under control and not get ahead of yourself. I’m very excited to be in the final group again and I have a shot at the title. That’s always exciting.” – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

17th February 2023

Senekal holds on to SDC Open lead

BELA-BELA (Limpopo) – JJ Senekal retained his place at the top of the SDC Open leaderboard with a second round of 67 which earned him a four-stroke lead heading into the weekend at the Zebula Golf Estate and Spa.

Senekal leads the field on 15 under par, with fellow South African Martin Vorster his nearest challenger on 11 under par following a 69 on Friday. Casey Jarvis, Alfie Plant, Combrinck Smit, Estiaan Conradie and Victor Pastor are all lined up on 10 under par.

Senekal was two strokes clear after the first round thanks to his opening 62, and he had set himself a target of another low round on Friday.

“I had a target of eight under today, but I mean, five under is still a good round of golf around here,” he said.

He made another fast start with two birdies in his first three holes to suggest he may well post another low round. But the cooler weather and intermittent rain that moved over the course seemed to match the cooling of his putter.

“After that good start I really thought I could go low again today. But it died down after that and the putter went cold over the last 10 holes. I didn’t make a thing. I hit two close iron shots that gave me the opportunity for a birdie and eagle but that was it. I didn’t make anything inside 10 feet after that. I’m actually quite disappointed with the putting performance on the back nine, but I’m in a good position for the weekend.”

It was the opposite for his nearest challenger Vorster. The young star finds himself in contention for the second time on this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned stretch of events. He finished fourth in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open two weeks ago, and this week he’s felt that his putter has kept him in the chase.

“I’m pretty happy considering how I hit the ball today. The swing has been a bit up and down and I haven’t been hitting the ball as well as the last few weeks. But my short game has been the best it has been so I feel comfortable around the greens. The putter was great and I made a few good putts for pars.”

Vorster recovered well from each of his three bogeys, following them up with a birdie at the next hole. And he’s relishing being in contention going into the weekend.

“Being in the mix is incredible. I was right up there in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and I enjoy it so much. It motivates me to play better so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Senekal has hopes that he has another low round in him for the weekend as he chases a title he was also in contention for last year.

“I’m just going to keep doing the same I’ve been doing the last two days. If you put yourself in the right positions on this golf course you can really go low. – Michael Vlismas

SHARE ON: [addtoany buttons='facebook,twitter,email']

16th February 2023

Senekal’s ‘Full Swing’ at 62 to lead SDC Open

BELA-BELA (Limpopo) – Before Thursday’s first round of the SDC Open at the Zebula Golf Estate and Spa, JJ Senekal watched an episode of the new Netflix golf documentary, “Full Swing”. In it Major champion Brooks Koepka verbalised exactly what Senekal felt as he went on to open with a 10-under-par 62 and lead this tournament.

“Koepka spoke about how within the first couple of holes of your round you know if it’s on or not. That’s what happened to me over the first five holes today. I knew it was on,” said Senekal as he played his way to seven birdies, two eagles and one bogey for a two-stroke lead over fellow South African Martin Vorster. Herman Loubser is also well-placed three shots off the lead.

Senekal’s first five holes certainly gave him confirmation of a good day coming as he teed off the 10th and played them in three under par. Then came an eagle on the  par-five 15th and a birdie on the par-four 16th that was impressive enough to even get a few wildebeest to lift their heads from their grazing.

“It was a hot start. I felt I needed that eagle on 15if I wanted to get a low round going. Then I eagled my 11th hole (the par-five second) and I knew I was in for a good round.”

A lapse in concentration and the wrong club selection led to a bogey on his 12th hole, but three birdies coming home quickly sorted that out.

Senekal has been waiting for this round amidst a season of remarkable consistency that has been highlighted by a sixth-place finish in November’s Joburg Open and then 14th in the recent Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and sixth in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.

It came on Thursday on a golf course he’s always loved since he made his amateur debut for South Africa here 16 years ago in a Test against England, playing against the same Ashley Chesters who was his professional playing partner on Thursday.

“I’ve been knocking on the door for quite a while. With the results I’ve had in the past four months I knew there was a low round in there somewhere, and here she is.”

Senekal finished seventh in last year’s SDC Open and clearly enjoys this bushveld layout. “I like tree-lined golf courses because of the targeting it gives you. You have to be straight off the tee here and I think I got that right. You have to keep it in play here and it’s soft enough at the moment where you can fire at flags. You just need to stay patient and there are a lot of birdies out there.”

Behind him, Vorster was delighted with his round, especially after a warm-up that wasn’t ideal by his standards.

“This morning on the range I didn’t have the greatest session but we went out with the mindset that I’ve been playing well so I’ll just keep committing to shots, and I’m very happy with the result. I love being in the bushveld and the course suits me,” he said. – Michael Vlismas