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23rd April 2023

Ahlers wraps up season with Tour Championship win

SERENGETI ESTATES, Kempton Park – Jaco Ahlers left the best for last, in all respects. In the final tournament of the Sunshine Tour season, Ahlers chipped in from the bunker for birdie on the last to claim a four-shot victory in the Tour Championship at Serengeti Estates on Sunday.

Ahlers closed with a 71 and a total of 17 under par to claim his 11th victory on the Sunshine Tour.

“I didn’t expect that finish. I was actually just trying to keep it together there at the end. But what a way to finish. I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Ahlers after he was drenched in six bottles of champagne by a group of Serengeti fans with whom he has a special relationship.

“This one was always special. I have a big tie with Serengeti and the people here. My sponsor lives here and I have a lot of support here. This is like a second home for me. It’s a special win this one.”

Casey Jarvis finished second on 13 under par after closing with a 70. Luca Filippi, Ryan van Velzen and Pieter Moolman shared third on eight under par.

Ahlers went into the final round five strokes clear of Jarvis. After the par-three fifth hole, Ahlers was seven shots ahead of Jarvis as he threatened to surpass the record six-stroke victory by Tristen Strydom last year. But Jarvis then made three consecutive birdies from the sixth to cut Ahlers’s lead down to three.

But Ahlers remained composed, and when Jarvis bogeyed the 11th and 14th holes, Ahlers birdied the 14th to give himself a six-shot lead with four to play. He bogeyed 17 and then made the incredible birdie on 18.

With this being the season-ending tournament, Ockie Strydom claimed the overall Luno Order of Merit title thereby securing himself a place in two of the four Majors – the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and, via the Federation Ranking on the Official World Golf Ranking, the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill – as well as in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. He also wins R500 000 in Bitcoin.

Casey Jarvis walked off with the Rookie of the Season award for a remarkable first season on the Sunshine Tour in which he challenged for a maiden victory on several occasions, shot only the second 59 in Sunshine Tour history, and finished seventh on the final Luno Order of Merit. – Michael Vlismas

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22nd April 2023

Ahlers keeps his cool and the lead in Tour Championship

SERENGETI ESTATES, Kempton Park – Jaco Ahlers did what he does so well in a challenging third round of the Tour Championship at Serengeti Estates on Saturday. He had a braai the night before the third round, and then he took on a strong wind and a chasing Casey Jarvis and held them both at bay.

A solid 69 kept Ahlers in the lead of this season-ending Sunshine Tour event on 16 under par. Jarvis fought hard for a 71 to remain his nearest challenger on 11 under par, and Pieter Moolman – who finished second in this event last year – moved into third place on seven under with a 71 of his own.

Ahlers’ 18 years of Tour experience certainly counted on Saturday, and it showed as he birdied two of his final three holes for that five-stroke lead.

“It was windy and it was tough. I am very happy with that finish,” said Ahlers.

“Patience was key. It was hard out there. I wasn’t striking my driver very well. It was going straight but I just didn’t feel I was putting a good strike on it. My putter was also cold on the front nine, but then came together on the back. This is a course I like a lot and which I play often, and it helped today. Especially coming down the stretch where there are some pin positions and chip shots where that knowledge helped immensely.”

Jarvis birdied the first to suggest he was going to keep Ahlers busy on Saturday. But Ahlers responded with a birdie at the second and then just focused on his own game.

“I did see the scoreboard every now and then but just played my own game. I’ll do the same in the final round and just stay in my own space. I’ve played this golf course enough to know there are a few birdies out there and you just need to remain patient.”

Jarvis finds himself in contention for the second week in succession on the Tour and was pleased to have come through a tough day when his putter wasn’t quite on form, but with a shot at victory still within sight.

“It was a proper grind out there but I did that pretty well. I just tried to stay patient and I’m very happy to have kept myself in the hunt for the final round.” – Michael Vlismas

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Q School graduates ready for Tour journeys

The triumph and heartbreak of qualifying school was on display this week with the conclusion of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament.

Sean Cronje led the qualifiers at the final stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Heron Banks Golf and River Resort, where the top 20 earned their tour cards.

Cronje won on 15 under par with rounds of 72-64-67-66. His nearest challengers were Gerhard Trytsman and Jonathan Broomhead on 12 under par.

“This was my second time now. It’s a very important week so it’s a lot of stress and a lot of people watching. You’ve just got to stay in the moment and just do your thing,” said Cronje.

In the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament at Modderfontein Golf Club, Robin Williams and Teboho Sefatsa finished tied on eight under par after four rounds, one stroke clear of Siyanda Mwandla. Williams then took the title in the playoff. The top 12 and ties earned their tour cards.

“I had a good week at the Stella Artois Players Championship the week before. It was a very scoreable golf course there and I thought I played pretty solid. I knew if I could just continue playing that way and keep my confidence I’d have a good week here,” said Williams.

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21st April 2023

Ahlers moves three clear in Tour Championship

SERENGETI ESTATES, Kempton Park – Jaco Ahlers tightened his grip on the season-ending Tour Championship as he moved into a three-stroke lead headed into the weekend at Serengeti Estates.

On another windy day on Friday Ahlers was outstanding with the putter and signed for a 65 to lead on 13 under par. Casey Jarvis is his nearest challenger on 10 under following a 67, and Keenan Davidse continues to do well despite being treated for bronchitis as he posted a 69 to currently lie in third place on eight under par.

Ahlers’s level of comfort at a Serengeti Estates, which he calls his second home, is very clear to see. The only errors he made on Friday were two poor iron shots – both of them on par threes – on his second nine.

“I’m very happy. I did make two bad bogeys on the back nine, which was really just bad iron shots. But other than that the putter is working like magic for me. The greens are good, the golf course is good, so you can’t ask for more,” said Ahlers, who is also staying with his sponsor on the estate this week.

And this is clearly a golf course he enjoys.

“I like this golf course a lot. I can see what I need to do around here. The course fits my eye so I know where to miss it and I know how to get it around here. It really just comes down to the putting. There are a lot of birdies out there. You just need to be patient. My gameplan won’t change for the weekend. Hopefully the putter just keeps working like it is.”

Behind him, the 19-year-old Jarvis keeps pushing for that maiden victory in his rookie season on the Sunshine Tour.

It’s been a remarkable season for the young professional who finished second in the South African PGA Championship, tied ninth in the Joburg Open, tied ninth in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, second in the SDC Open, and then tied second in last week’s Stella Artois Players Championship where he shot that memorable 59 in the third round. – Michael Vlismas

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20th April 2023

Ahlers chasing Tour Championship glory

SERENGETI ESTATES, Kempton Park – Jaco Ahlers’ love for the Tour Championship and Serengeti Estates was clear to see as he opened with a six-under-par 66 to lead the first round of this Sunshine Tour season-ending tournament by a single stroke on Thursday.

Ahlers didn’t drop a single shot on a windy opening day and with some tough pin placements to test this field of the leading available professionals within the top 50 on the Sunshine Tour’s Luno Order of Merit.

The trio of Casey Jarvis, Keenan Davidse and JJ Senekal are one shot behind him. Jarvis is again hunting a maiden Sunshine Tour title in his rookie season, and less than a week after shooting only the second 59 in Sunshine Tour history.

It’s been a busy season for Ahlers as he’s divided his time between the Sunshine Tour and Asia, and he’d love nothing more than to claim a victory at Serengeti this week.

“I didn’t play much in South Africa, but I finished third in the SDC Championship which secured my place in this field. This is a tournament I just love and want to win, so this is a good start,” he said.

“It’s a good golf course. The wind was blowing and there were a few tough pin placements, but the course was also soft which helps with the scoring. I’m really happy I didn’t make a bogey.”

Behind him, Jarvis is once again near the top of the leaderboard in what has been a stellar rookie season on the Sunshine Tour where he’s challenged for a maiden title on several occasions.

“I’m getting more comfortable in this position now and just want to keep learning. I didn’t think I’d be here playing in a Tour Championship in my rookie season and I’m really proud of myself for achieving that,” he said.

“There was a bit of wind the whole day – probably about a club-and-a-half. I played well. I struggled a bit with my wedges but I’m happy with my start. I rolled in the putts I needed to make.”

And Davidse was also more than happy with his opening round as he’s struggling with bronchitis and is on medication this week.

“I’m quite exhausted, so I’m really excited about my round today. I don’t have any expectations. Today I was just focused on whether I could finish the round,” he said. – Michael Vlismas

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19th April 2023

Strydom to end Sunshine Tour season as a Major player

SERENGETI ESTATES, Kempton Park – Ockie Strydom started the current Sunshine Tour season as a player looking to make that step up in his career. He ends it at this week’s Tour Championship having done exactly this, with two DP World Tour wins and now Major Championship golf to look forward to as well.

Strydom goes into this week’s Sunshine Tour season-ending Tour Championship at Serengeti Estates as the top-ranked golfer on the Tour’s Luno Order of Merit. He cannot be caught this week so will end the season in first place.

This brings with it Major incentives for Strydom, including a place in The Open at Royal Liverpool as well as the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill, the latter coming via the Federation Ranking on the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I’m into two Majors at the moment, and I’m also hoping to get into the US Open through my ranking on the DP World Tour. So that could be three Majors this year, which would be a first for me. It’s challenging and exciting at the same time,” said Strydom.

“I’m trying not to approach anything differently. It definitely sounds nice to say I’m playing in Majors, and it’s a word that changes the mindset. But I’ll try and approach them as just another golf tournament where I have the opportunity to play against the best players in the world.”

Strydom’s first place on the final Luno Order of Merit will also secure him a spot in the Nedbank Golf Challenge later this year.

So it’s a rewarding week for Strydom, and on a golf course that always brings out the best in his game.

“It’s nice to be back here to finish off the Sunshine Tour season. I always play well on this course. I’m a more experienced golfer this year as well so hopefully it’s another good week for me.”

The field this week includes Casey Jarvis, who should wrap-up the Rookie of the Year award.

“That was one of my goals at the beginning of the year and I’m proud to have achieved it. I’ve only been a pro for about seven months and I’ve learned so much out here. I’m very happy with my first season,” he said. – Michael Vlismas

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18th April 2023

Major incentives await for Tour’s best at Tour Championship

The rewards for a season of consistent performance await the top 50 available professionals on the Sunshine Tour this week as they gather at Serengeti Estates for the season-ending Tour Championship, and with a shot at a place in some of world golf’s biggest tournaments to play for.

The R2-million tournament not only rewards the leading professionals on the Tour but also offers a range of local and international exemptions.

The winner of the Tour Championship will receive a two-year exemption on the Sunshine Tour.

The leading golfer on the Sunshine Tour’s final Luno Order of Merit for the season will earn a place in two of the four Majors – the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and, via the Federation Ranking on the Official World Golf Ranking, the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill – as well as in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

The top three professionals on the final Luno Order of Merit will also earn DP World Tour cards for the new season, as well as R500 000 in Bitcoin (first place), R200 000 in Bitcoin (second place) and R100 000 in Bitcoin (third place).

“There is plenty to play for at the Tour Championship, which is a worthy reward for the consistency shown by these professionals over the season. We’re grateful for the support from Serengeti Estates and their shared commitment to reward the excellence and consistency of our leading professionals,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

Serengeti Estates has established itself as a popular Sunshine Tour venue with its Jack Nicklaus Signature Designed championship golf course and other world-class golf facilities such as the Whistling Thorn 18-Hole Par-3 golf course, ample practice facilities and a golf academy. January’s launch of the new Shamrock Putting Complex has also added significantly to their vision of being the most complete golf experience.

“This fifth edition of the Tour Championship promises to be the best one yet. We at Serengeti look forward to graciously hosting the players and our guests at this unique event and are delighted to be associated with the Tour, where greatness truly begins,” said Dino De Abreu, Chief Operating Officer of Serengeti Golf Club.

The Serengeti Golf Club experience has caught the eye of some of the Sunshine Tour’s top professionals, many of whom are based at Serengeti Estates, including PGA Tour campaigner Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Another Serengeti Estates resident, Tristen Strydom, made his professional breakthrough on the Sunshine Tour when he won this tournament in record fashion last season. Strydom’s six-shot victory was the largest margin of victory in the history of the Tour Championship. Strydom also claimed the record for the lowest winning total in the history of the Tour Championship on 21-under-par 267, surpassing the previous record of 19-under-par 269 by Garrick Higgo in 2020.

“I feel comfortable with the golf course and it’s just such a nice environment to compete in,” said Strydom.

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16th April 2023

Barker breaks through with Sunshine Tour victory

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – When it comes to a Players Championship, there could not have been a more popular winner of the Stella Artois Players Championship amongst all his peers than Kyle Barker.

The man with the biggest smile on the Sunshine Tour had even more reason to do so as Barker claimed his maiden victory on the circuit at Dainfern Country Club on Sunday.

A week of incredible scoring saw Barker sign off with a 61 to win on 30 under par. He finished six shots clear of second-placed Peter Karmis, who closed with a 64, and Casey Jarvis, who signed for a final round of 68.

Karmis and Jarvis sharing second place alongside each other was another special moment as they also share the lowest round in Sunshine Tour history of 59. Karmis shot his 59 in 2009 and Jarvis equaled that this week in the third round of this tournament.

But the biggest smile and applause belonged to the ever-popular Barker.

“Thank you so much guys. Honestly, this feels like a dream right now. To all the supporters out there and everyone that came, it was just amazing. Thank you so much,” said Barker.

Barker was three shots off the overnight lead and then stormed through the field with the kind of free-flowing golf he’s known for, making six birdies on the front nine and then five on the second nine.

“My mindset was key out there today. I played carefree golf. I didn’t mind if I made a mistake, and if I did I bounced back immediately. My mindset was just so strong and my short game was also very good out there. The greens were superb. I’m just so proud of myself for doing this.”

In a week of memorable moments, Barker said his six iron into the par-five 18th green would stand out as his favourite.

“I’ve never felt my hands shake so much in my life but I’m just glad it came out of the middle of the clubface and finished in the middle of the green, and the two-putt to win was awesome. I’m just so thankful to my family and my fiancé, Savannah, for their support.”

And one of the most popular players on the Sunshine Tour paid tribute to his fellow players as well.

“I also want to thank my best pals – my travel buddies. There have been a lot of ups and downs this year, but I really want to thank them. It’s been amazing and I look forward to our future memories to come.” – Michael Vlismas

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15th April 2023

59 for Jarvis equals Sunshine Tour record

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – Casey Jarvis shot a 59 to equal the lowest tournament round in Sunshine Tour history in Saturday’s third round of the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Country Club and which puts him two shots behind tournament leader Luca Filippi.

It was another day of the most incredible scoring in a tournament that has already delivered some world-class golf.

Jarvis tapped in for par on 18 for his 59 on Saturday to equal the 59 shot by Peter Karmis in the 2009 Lombard Insurance Classic on the Royal Swazi Spa Golf Course in eSwatini.

It lifted him to tied second with Lyle Rowe on 20 under par, with Filippi scoring 29 on the back nine for a 66 that earned him the sole lead on 22 under par.

But 19-year-old Jarvis stole the show with his record-equaling round.

“I definitely didn’t wake up this morning thinking about a 59. I haven’t been playing well leading up to this round but everything just went for me today. You get out there and the putts just start dropping,” said Jarvis.

The putts started dropping for him as early as the second hole where he made his first birdie of the day. It started a run of seven consecutive birdies for a front nine of 29. Then Jarvis added two birdies and two eagles on the back nine for a 30.

“I hit some good quality shots and rolled in a lot of good putts. The putt on seven was quite long and when that went in I knew it was going to be something quite special,” said Jarvis.

“The eagle on the 17th was really big. I stood on the 18th tee with 59 in my mind. I hit a bad drive but got it done. It’s so tough to do.”

Filippi was delighted with his own performance, and particular the work he’s been doing on staying in the moment and not being sidetracked by what is going on around him. Saturday was certainly a good day to put that to the test.

“I think I did a great job of staying patient and in the present with all the birdies out there. I’m very pleased with the way I’ve played this week and I’ll give it my all in the final round. Casey’s 59 was incredible golf and it will be a good battle with him on the final day. But I’m really comfortable with the position I’m in at the moment.”

Between Jarvis’ record-equaling golf and Filippi shooting his second consecutive 29 over nine holes in this tournament, Daniel van Tonder also added to a day of thrilling golf with his hole-in-one on the par-three 16th, earning himself R200 000 from sponsor Stella Artois. – Michael Vlismas

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14th April 2023

Filippi and Erickson go low to lead at Dainfern

DAINFERN, Johannesburg – The low scoring continued in the second round of the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern Country Club on Friday as South Africa’s Luca Filippi posted his first 29 over nine holes in a tournament for a 64 and American Dan Erickson signed for a 62 to see them share the lead on 16 under par going into the weekend.

They are two strokes clear of Darren Fichardt, Lyle Rowe, Tristen Strydom, Luke Jerling and Jovan Rebula after 36 holes in which the halfway cut fell at five under par.

Erickson carded two eagles during his round, while Filippi turned one under for the round and then lit up his second nine.

“It was just a magical nine. I had a six-metre putt on the last hole to break 30 and it was an unreal feeling to get that first 29 in a tournament,” said Filippi, who has been showing signs of this kind of performance.

“I’ve been playing some great golf recently and come close so many times now, so I’m really looking forward to what unfolds on the weekend. I’ve been getting more comfortable in high pressure situations and understanding what your body does under pressure. I’ve been working hard with a psychologist and we talk a lot about staying in the moment, and that’s been a real switch for me. It’s just about feeling comfortable and knowing what kind of shot shape I hit under the gun.”

Filippi identified the par fives as the key to scoring at Dainfern, and co-leader Erickson felt exactly the same.

“They’re lighting it up out here. It’s crazy how low the scores have been. I don’t find that the golf course is really set up that easy. I think it’s just the fact that the par fives are reachable, so you can really take advantage of those. I had eagle looks on all the par fives today and made two of them.”

Much like Filippi, Erickson is also doing his best to stay in the present on a golf course where it can feel like you are losing ground if you’re not making a handful of birdies.

“That’s where I can go wrong on golf courses like this where the scores are really low. I try to force birdies, and it would be better for me to just try to stay patient and let the birdies come. Patience and just sticking to the gameplan will be the biggest key for me for the weekend. I’ve done a good job of not feeling like I had to shoot a low score the past few days.” – Michael Vlismas