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31st May 2023

Back nine charge puts Keelan in front at SunBet Challenge

SUN CITY, North-West – Keelan van Wyk did not think he would be able to conquer the back nine at the Gary Player Country Club as comfortably as he did, but his marvellous five-under-par 67 set him up for pride of place on the leaderboard after the first round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City on Wednesday.

Although Van Wyk is just 24 years old and in only his third season on the Sunshine Tour, he is very familiar with the famous Gary Player Country Club layout and aware of all the challenges it poses. But starting his round on the 10th tee, he birdied the 12th, 14th, 16thand 18th holes to go to the turn already four-under-par.

After collecting two more birdies on the front nine, he made his only bogey of the day on the ninth, his last hole, but his 67 was still his best round of the season thus far.

“My family comes to Sun City quite a lot on holiday, so I’ve played a few rounds here and I feel quite comfortable, although I haven’t had that many good scores. Usually the back nine is the tougher nine for the way I like to play, so to be four-under at the turn was certainly better than I projected,” Van Wyk said.

“But I’ve definitely put a lot of hard work into my game lately and I have been playing quite well, but just not scoring. But today I had my iron-play under control, I birdied three of the par-threes, and I managed to roll some putts in.

“My plan was to give myself lots of chances for birdies, I took a few of them and I am very, very pleased with my round,” Van Wyk said.

The Riverlea resident’s only real mistake came on the ninth when he caught a flyer out of the rough and went 35 feet over the pin. He left his first putt short and missed his second as well, ending an otherwise fine round with a bogey.

But it was not a day for cruising at the Gary Player Country Club on Wednesday, overcast, cool weather making the course even longer and the usual premium on precise golf being in play.

Four golfers – Robin Williams, Matthew Spacey, Toto Thimba Jnr and Jason Smith – were sharing second place two strokes behind on three-under-par, and only 16 golfers finished under-par on the opening day.

Williams was five-under through 12 holes but a double-bogey at the par-four 13th was a telling blow. Spacey also notched up a six at the same hole, as well as one on the par-four eighth.

Smith had back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13, as well as one on the third, but you can tell how well Thimba Jnr played by the fact he also, like Van Wyk, only dropped one shot in his opening round.

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28th May 2023

Composed Albertse wins in style

IRENE, Tshwane –  Louis Albertse was all smiles after winning the Kit Kat Cash and Carry Pro-Am and R320 000 at Irene Country Club on Sunday, but he said even though he triumphed by a comfortable four strokes it felt like he had been climbing mountains all day.

Albertse finished in style by sinking a 30ft putt for birdie on the 18th hole, completing an impressive four-under 68 in the final round, and a total of 23-under-par for the R2 million event, well clear of Kyle Barker in second place on 19-under.

But both playing partner Malcolm Mitchell and Barker had put Albertse under pressure through the final day.

Mitchell was four-under-par through the front nine as he closed to within two strokes, but then a horror run from the 12th hole saw him drop four strokes in three holes, including a double-bogey on the par-three 13th hole, when his tee-shot hit a tree and he then three-putted.

Barker produced excellent golf on the last day in a bogey-free 67, which could have been even better and would have put Albertse under even more pressure had a couple of late birdie putts not missed the hole by an inch or two.

Nevertheless, Albertse was not to be swayed on Sunday. He made a pair of crucial birdies around the turn and then played solid, error-free golf to par his way to the last hole.

“It’s always really hard to win, it never gets easier. Everyone here is extremely talented and the pressure can get to you; 18 holes is a long time,” the representative of Dundee Golf Club, in the foothills of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, said after his second Sunshine Tour victory.

“Malcolm Mitchell played extremely well out of the blocks and that motivated me because I knew if I make mistakes then he will overtake me. I just tried to stay in it, focus on my own game as much as I could.

“The birdies at nine and 10 were crucial, with Malcolm missing a birdie putt at 10. I hit some good shots around the turn and I just tried to play good shot after good shot,” Albertse said.

Far from being insipid golf, Albertse’s run of pars from the 11th hole was a calculated strategy by the 26-year-old to eliminate risk, on a course he loves, having finished third in the same event last year.

“Having a good lead is nice because it means you can hit conservative shots, especially on holes 14 to 16. It also showed on my choice of club off the 18th tee when I hit a five-iron.

“I scored my first nine-under here at Irene, back in my amateur days. I just really enjoy the course and coming back here, I feel comfortable here,” Albertse said.

Sean Cronje, the 22-year-old from Durbanville, hit the big time on Sunday as his phenomenal eight-under 64 lifted him into third place on 17-under-par, his first top-10 finish on the Sunshine Tour.

Mitchell finished with a 71 to share fourth place on 16-under with Wynand Dingle (67).

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27th May 2023

Albertse chasing victory at Irene Country Club

IRENE, Tshwane –  Although Louis Albertse’s five-under-par 67 was not faultless golf, the 26-year-old showed perfect composure as he maintained his four-shot lead after the third and penultimate round of the Kit Kat Cash and Carry Pro-Am at Irene Country Club on Saturday.

Albertse will go into Sunday’s final round with a brilliant score of 19-under-par, following rounds of 66-64-67, a very handy lead with half-a-dozen golfers within six shots of him.

Albertse took a while to get going on Saturday and a bogey on the par-four fifth hole left him one-over for the round. But birdies on the sixth and eighth holes brought some momentum, and he then produced a brilliant back nine of four-under 32.

The Dundee Golf Club representative made some mistakes coming in, but showed a tremendous ability to recover quickly from his mistakes. Twice he made birdies after poor shots left him out of position, courtesy of a wonderful wedge on the par-five 10thand a phenomenal 45ft putt across the green on the par-three 16th.

“I had a bit of nerves at the start, I’m not going to lie, and I didn’t hit good drives on the first two holes,” Albertse said. “I was glad I got through those with birdies on six and eight, and then birdies on 10 and 11 made me feel even better. That settled me and I had a good round going.

“I just tried to stay composed. Acceptance in this game plays a really big part in success and the quicker you can accept mistakes, the easier it is. I just tried to forget about the previous shot.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of nerves in the final round and things might feel different. But that’s why we practise all these years, to be in this position. I’m just going to try and enjoy it as much as I can, and at 19-under-par there’s no reason to change anything in my game,” Albertse said.

Although the man who enjoyed seven top-10 finishes last season will be the favourite to win the R320 000 first prize on Sunday, it is by no means a done deal with several other golfers playing marvellous golf on Saturday to put themselves in the picture.

Malcolm Mitchell produced a magnificent back nine of 31 as his 66 lifted him into second place on 15-under. The lanky KwaZulu-Natalian chipped in for eagle on the 10th hole and finished his round with three consecutive birdies.

Kyle Barker also chipped in from off the green for an eagle on the par-four 15th and then finished birdie-birdie to post a 68 that left him in third place on 14-under.

A resurgent Trevor Fisher Jnr is on 13-under after cruising to a 66, alongside youngsters Jovan Rebula (68) and Adam Breen (64).

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26th May 2023

Albertse topping leaderboard in KitKat Pro-Am

IRENE, Tshwane –  Being newly married and coming off his most successful season yet may have added some extra load onto the broad shoulders of Louis Albertse, but the 26-year-old played with great freedom on Friday as he posted a tremendous eight-under-par 64 to claim a four-shot lead after the second round of the KitKat Cash & Carry Pro-Am at the Irene Country Club.

Claiming eight birdies and an eagle on the 112-year-old parkland course, Albertse will go into the weekend on 14-under-par, with his nearest challengers being Kyle Barker (64), Wynand Dingle (69) and Yurav Premlall (65) on 10-under.

Having been tied for third after his 66 in the first round, Albertse started on the 10th hole and took a while to find the same success on Friday and was just one-under after his first seven holes. But the Dundee Golf Club representative broke the shackles around the turn, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie from the 17th hole to snatch the lead. A bogey on the par-three fourth did little to break the momentum as he finished strongly with three more birdies in the last five holes.

Albertse, who finished a career-best 17th in the 2022/23 The Courier Guy Order of Merit with seven top-10 finishes, made his eagle on the 368m par-four first hole when he unleashed a fabulous drive that finished just short of the green and he was able to putt the ball into the hole for a two.

“There’s probably a little bit more added pressure when you’re coming off your best season and last week in Zambia wasn’t great, maybe because I was rusty after taking two weeks off to get married,” Albertse said.

“But I know I’m playing nicely and it’s just about trusting the process. It’s nice to see scores coming in though and luckily it all turned out in may favour today.

“I have a game-plan before the tournament which I try and follow, but some days are just better than others and you feel able to be more aggressive and it just works out.

“I gave myself quite a few opportunities today and just tried to be patient from the start. Having a birdie-bogey start wasn’t great, but after that things started to fall into place and I had an amazing stretch through the turn when I really hit second gear.

“It doesn’t happen often, but even then you just try and stay patient, although you take those runs with open arms. And it was an amazing drive on the first,” Albertse smiled.

Barker is another who has carried over his form from last season, when he broke through by finishing 22ndon the order of merit and won the Stella Artois Players’ Championship at Dainfern Country Club.

The 25-year-old, who moved over to Titleist in the off-season, started his round with a birdie on the par-five 10th. But he could only pick up more shots on the last two holes of the back nine, before coming home in style with four birdies in his last five holes to claim the lead before being overtaken by Albertse.

“It was a fantastic morning out there, I drove the ball very nicely and hit most of my targets. My wedges were pretty decent and I putted really well – my putts were in the low 20s,” Barker said.

Rookie Premlall was also highly-impressive with his 65. The 19-year-old finished his front nine with three birdies and an eagle, and then came home with birdies on the par-three 16th and par-five 17th holes.

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25th May 2023

Dingle, Rebula share KitKat Pro-Am lead

IRENE, Tshwane – Wynand Dingle says his game is not yet 100% technically sound, but the 38-year-old still has the recipe for success as he took advantage of the receptive greens at the Irene Country Club and shot a seven-under-par 65 on Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the KitKat Cash & Carry Pro-Am.

Dingle fired four birdies on each nine, following a bogey on the fourth hole he played, the 168m, par-three 13th with its menacing bunker in front of the green.

Young Jovan Rebula was in the same three-ball that teed off at 7am on Thursday, and he matched Dingle with seven birdies and no bogeys on his card.

Dingle and Rebula enjoy a one-stroke lead over Louis Albertse and Englishman Jack Hawksby, who eagled the par-four first hole, his 10th, to go with six birdies, but also had a couple of bogeys.

Seven-under 65 was a superb score on Thursday, but Dingle was not entirely satisfied.

“I didn’t have such a good start, it was cold in the morning and tough to get the body going and the ball didn’t go that far. And then I bogeyed my fourth hole,” Dingle said.

“But I got three birdies in a row straight afterwards and that kick-started my round, with another on 18 and then another three-in-a-row from the first. The greens are receptive and rolling nicely, you really can’t fault the course.

“One of my concerns though is my consistency is lacking a little bit. I need to get four rounds together and especially have better rounds on the weekend. Technically I’m not 100%, so when I’m under the gun I lose it a bit. It’s because technically I’m not totally sound.

“There are a few things bugging me in my swing and if I can correct those then it will stand up under pressure. But it’s not mental, it’s a technical thing,” Dingle said.

It was another fine day in the office for the in-form Neil Schietekat, who is top of The Courier Guy Order of Merit, as he shot a five-under 67 to share fifth place with Trevor Fisher Jnr.

Schietekat started slowly, reaching the turn at just one-under, but he then gathered four birdies on the back nine. 

Fisher Jnr began on the 10th and had a poor bogey-bogey start, but he played his last 13 holes in seven-under-par.

It was a tough day for Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi, the winner of last weekend’s Zanaco Masters in Zambia, as he shot a four-over 76.

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21st May 2023

Chinhoi wins Zanaco Masters in playoff

LUSAKA, Zambia Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi has won a couple of times on the Safari Tour, but on Sunday he clinched his first title of global significance when he won the Zanaco Masters at Lusaka Golf Club in a playoff over Neil Schietekat, in just his 11th Sunshine Tour start.

Chinhoi, who began the day two shots off the lead, put himself in contention by collecting two birdies in a bogey-free front nine, and then claimed the lead with three more birdies on the back nine, before a pulled drive saw him bogey the 17th and then only make par on the par-five final hole, leaving him with a 68 for 17-under-par for the tournament.

That was enough to get him into a playoff though, with Schietekat, the winner of the previous event on the Sunshine Tour, the FBC Zimbabwe Open a fortnight ago. Schietekat was six-under for his final round through 13 holes, roaring up the leaderboard, but he then made a crucial bogey on the par-four 14th hole and then could only par his way in to the clubhouse.

The pair played the 515-metre 18th hole again in the playoff and the 32-year-old Chinhoi produced an excellent tee-shot that left him 207 metres from the green. From there he hit a seven-iron short of the green, made sure he left his chip below the hole on the hard green, and calmly slotted a five-foot putt for birdie to claim the title, as the experienced Schietekat could only make par.

“I am just so grateful, I thank God, for this victory because it puts my name on the map,” a delighted Chinhoi said. “This win will be life and game-changing for me. I was getting tired of being in my comfort zone, I wanted to go away and play at another level. I managed to lift my game and this week has changed everything.”

While Chinhoi was superb off the tee on Sunday, he putted with computer-like accuracy under the pressure of the final round and a large crowd of contenders.

Young Ryan van Velzen birdied the 18th hole to finish with the clubhouse lead on 16-under and then faced an anxious wait, but Chinhoi and Schietekat did not drop any further strokes, leaving the 21-year-old alone in third place.

Stefan Wears-Taylor was also in contention but then bogeyed the last to post a 69 that left him on 15-under, a score matched by Sean Bradley, who had reached 16-under by the 10th hole, but then had seven straight pars and a bogey to finish.

Rupert Kaminski (65) and Trevor Fisher Jnr (66) were the other golfers to share fourth place on 15-under-par.

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20th May 2023

Happy Wicks the man to beat in Zanaco Masters

LUSAKA, Zambia Sunshine Tour rookie David Wicks fired a bogey-free five-under-par 67 on Saturday for a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Zanaco Masters at Lusaka Golf Club, but even though a victory would make a world of difference for the Englishman’s career, he said winning is not that important for him on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Wicks previously competed on the EuroPro Tour, but last year decided to give up his professional career, before his management agency suggested he try the Sunshine Tour. Coming to Southern Africa has been a game-changer for Wicks, as he finished sixth in Q-School and then enjoyed his best performance as a professional in finishing in a tie for 15thin the season-opening FBC Zimbabwe Open a fortnight ago.

A congested leaderboard now stands between him and a remarkable maiden victory, with at least a dozen golfers in with a shout for the title. While Wicks is on 15-under-par, Sean Bradley (-14), Robson Chinhoi (-13) and Stefan Wears-Taylor (-12) are leading the chasing pack.

Gerhard Trytsman and the in-form Neil Schietekat are on 11-under, while six golfers are on 10-under, including seasoned champion Hennie Otto and previous Tour winners in Jake Redman, Ryan van Velzen and Martin Rohwer.

“I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the nerves and emotions in the final round, but I am in a really happy spot at the moment and a happy golfer is tough to beat,” Wicks said.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, as long as I stick to my process and keep smiling. If I do that, then it doesn’t matter to me if I win the tournament of not. I will still look back on the week as a success, because I’m confident that if I stick to my process then it will yield a win at some stage.

“It’s about building a foundation and winning for me is really irrelevant, it’s about sticking to my process, having fun, enjoying what I’m doing. And then I will add up my score at the end and see where I stand,” Wicks said.

While the likes of Bradley, who followed up his 64 in the second round with a 69 on Saturday that included two eagles and four birdies, Chinhoi (70, four birdies) and Wears-Taylor (71, five birdies) produced some scintillating play, Wicks showed there is sometimes no replacement for good, old-fashioned error-free golf.

“Going bogey-free was very important for me, both mentally and for my score. When other people are making lots of birdies and eagles, dropping even one shot can feel like a double-bogey,” Wicks said.

“Fortunately I did not make any silly mistakes to drop back, while amidst all the birdies on the rest of the leaderboard there were lots of bogeys and doubles too.

“My plan was to first and foremost make par and then go for birdie,” Wicks said.

It sounds like the sort of plan which could yield a life-changing victory on Sunday.

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19th May 2023

Trio chasing Zanaco Masters glory

LUSAKA, Zambia – Stefan Wears-Taylor now really feels he belongs as one of the main contenders on the Sunshine Tour after his 2022/23 campaign, his fourth season in the professional ranks, was his most successful yet, so it was fitting that he says his mindset was his strongest attribute as he soared to the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Zanaco Masters at the Lusaka Golf Club on Friday.

Wears-Taylor backed up his 67 on the first day with a fantastic six-under-par 66 on Friday, which lifted him to 11-under-par at the midway point of the tournament. The Centurion Country Club representative collected eight birdies in all, four of them in a row from the 15th hole as he ended his opening nine in spectacular fashion.

He is not alone on 11-under-par, however, with Sean Bradley and Zimbabwe’s Robson Chinhoi sharing the lead with him.

Bradley managed to fit in seven birdies and an eagle in his superb 64, while Chinhoi collected four birdies on the front nine in his 67.

Wears-Taylor finished 24th on the order of merit last season and claimed his first Sunshine Tour title in the MediClinic Invitational on his home course in March. He then made a solid start to the new season by finishing 17th in the FBC Zimbabwe Open. Friday’s round at a sunny Lusaka Golf Club was a continuation of that form.

“My attitude on the first two days is what I’m most proud of. I started the first round with a few errant shots to the left, which is unusual for me,” Wears-Taylor explained. “But I’ve just stayed patient and enjoyed my day out on the course, enjoying where I’m walking and there are some huge trees here which are fascinating.

“I’ve just been staying positive because this golf course is going to bite you if you make mistakes. I started on the 10th and I had a productive morning, slowly building momentum until I had the wind in my sails and then some putts fell in the last few holes and I hit a very nice Sand-Wedge to three feet on the 17th.

“Things slowed down a little after the turn, unfortunately I made some soft mistakes, but that will happen on this tough course. There are tight tee shots on both nines and visually, you have overhanging trees which makes it complicated for the eye. And it’s definitely simpler hitting from the fairways because the greens are tough with firm bounces if you don’t get spin.

“But I’ve built up experience over the last couple of years. It takes time to find your feet on tour, especially because I didn’t have any real amateur background.

“It’s taken time to get to where I am, but I am seeing steady growth and learning more about myself both as a player and a person. I’m really enjoying the journey and hopefully it leads to a long and fruitful career,” Wears-Taylor said.

Chinhoi said his ball-striking and approaches to the greens were his strong points on Friday.

“It was a good day for me, I’m so happy with how I am striking the ball and my control on the greens. The trick though is off the tee, I used Driver on most holes and I was just trying to be more aggressive.

“I am so grateful to see my name at the top of the leaderboard and I will keep to the same strategy and just try to keep it rolling. It shows that I am just as good as everyone here and I will just keep focusing and pressing,” Chinhoi said.

First-round leaders Neil Schietekat and David Wicks are still strongly placed just one shot off the leaders after they both shot three-under 69s on Friday, and Trevor Fisher Jnr (67) and Malcolm Mitchell (65) are a stroke further back.

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18th May 2023

Wicks finds new inspiration on Sunshine Tour

LUSAKA, Zambia – David Wicks is an Englishman playing in just his second Sunshine Tour event, having decided six months ago to give up professional golf, but on Thursday he found himself on top of the leaderboard at the Zanaco Masters at Lusaka Golf Club in Zambia, following his outstanding opening round of seven-under-par 65.

Wicks’s bogey-free round was matched late in the day by Neil Schietekat, the winner of the FBC Zimbabwe Open, the previous Sunshine Tour event a fortnight ago. The pair hold a one shot lead over Robson Chinhoi, while Ryan van Velzen, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Jake Redman and Luke Trochado all shot five-under 67s.

Wicks had been competing on the EuroPro Tour, but was going to call time on his career as a touring pro when his management agency suggested he try out the Sunshine Tour. He went to Q-School last month and finished sixth. The St John’s County resident then enjoyed a very solid debut event on tour as he finished tied-15th in the FBC Zimbabwe Open in Harare.

The 29-year-old Wicks started on the 10th hole at Lusaka Golf Club on Thursday and collected four birdies on his front nine and then another three coming home. Wicks said ensuring he stayed in the fairways was a key focus.

“I was going to quit golf six months ago, but then I heard really good things about the Sunshine Tour from my management agency, they told me about the opportunities out here, the lifestyle and how well run the tour is. It’s been a great experience so far with how well the tour delivers to the
players and the fans, and the media production.

“The tour goes above and beyond and I’m really happy to be playing on it. I get to travel around Africa with my girlfriend, Megan Barone, on the bag.

“I was able to build some confidence at Q-School and in Zimbabwe, and my game is definitely trending in a good direction. I’m just staying in the process and ensuring I don’t make silly errors.

“Lusaka Golf Club is a tough test, you have to come in from the fairways due to the firmness of the greens. You’ll have lots of problems here if you miss the fairway, so that was my goal, putting a high price on hitting them and using lofted wedges into the green. You have to try and get the ball to
spin, you’re hoping you don’t get big bounces,” Wicks said.

Schietekat, still delighting in the relief of winning his first Sunshine Tour title since 2018 in Zimbabwe, was one-under through six holes, but then his game really began to purr like a well-oiled machine. He picked up four birdies in the next five holes around the turn, and also posted fours on the par-five 13th and 18th holes.

Van Velzen was also going extremely well on seven-under at one stage, but then double-bogeyed his penultimate hole, the par-four eighth, to drop back to five-under.

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15th May 2023

Strydom to make Major debut in PGA Championship

Ockie Strydom will make his Major Championship debut as one of four South Africans in the field for this week’s 105thPGA Championship which tees off at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, on Thursday.

Strydom said he is determined not to let the occasion change his focus for the week.

“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 it as just another golf tournament where I have the opportunity to play against the best players in the world.”

Strydom will be joined in the field by Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Thriston Lawrence and Dean Burmester.

Lawrence will also be making his debut in the PGA Championship but is playing in the second Major of his career.

Bezuidenhout will be playing in his fourth PGA Championship, with his best finish in this Major being tied 30th in 2021.

Burmester will tee it up in his third PGA Championship having finished tied 59th in 2021 and missed the cut last year.

The quartet will be looking to claim the first Southern African victory in this Major since Zimbabwean Nick Price in 1994. Price won the PGA Championship twice in his career in 1992 and 1994 and holds the third-largest margin of victory in the history of this Major with his six-stroke triumph in 1994.

Gary Player claimed his two PGA Championship titles a decade apart in 1962 and 1972 and shares the record for the lowest 18-hole score in this Major of 63 which he shot in the second round in 1984. – Michael Vlismas