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31st July 2023

Statement on Distance Model Local Rule (MLR) for Elite Competitions

The Sunshine Tour will continue, as it has always done, to abide by the decisions of the R&A and USGA when it comes to the Rules of Golf and any changes to these rules.

This includes the proposed Model Local Rule related to the roll back of the golf ball to limit its distance.

The Sunshine Tour has always aligned itself with the governing bodies of golf and their shared vision to make decisions that are in the best interests of the global game.

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29th July 2023

Karmis breaks win drought at FNB Eswatini Challenge

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Peter Karmis has not won on the Sunshine Tour since August 2018, but the 42-year-old showed he still has the bottle for it on Saturday as clinched a thrilling one-stroke victory in the FNB Eswatini Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate.

Karmis fired a two-under-par 70 in Saturday’s final round to finish on 10-under-par overall, edging out Stuart Krog (69) on nine-under for his seventh Sunshine Tour title.

Matthew Spacey, who enjoyed a four-stroke lead going into the last day, stumbled to a 76 on Saturday and ended up sharing third place on eight-under-par with Louis Albertse (67), last week’s winner CJ du Plessis (68) and Ruan Korb (69).

Although Karmis started brilliantly with a birdie on the par-four first hole, and gained two more shots on the seventh and eighth holes to reach the turn on three-under, he endured a rollercoaster back nine that saw him sandwich a birdie on the par-five 13th hole with bogeys on the 11th and 15th holes.

Karmis showed his mettle, however, by finishing with three straight pars, while Krog suffered a costly double-bogey on the par-four 16th hole.

“You need a bit of luck and things went my way, especially at the death,” Karmis said. “I was trying not to get too excited and on the last couple of holes I was very nervous.

“Some guys shy away from nerves, they try and fix it, but that can become very difficult. I prefer to embrace it and enjoy the nerves.

“I know it’s been five years since I won, but we were in lockdown for a long time and I had a struggle with injury. So it feels like I had three years off,” Karmis said.

Whatever the final round held in store for Karmis, he knew the Nkonyeni Golf Estate course was one he enjoyed. Saturday’s victory is his fourth in Eswatini, having won the Lombard Insurance Classic twice (2007 & 2009) and the Investec Royal Swazi Open in 2017.

“I don’t know what it is about Eswatini, but I always just seem to have a very good attitude here. This is a very good course that suits my game. I love the grainy greens, although I did have a little issue with my putter today.

“But from tee-to-green I was good. I was a bit nervous about my Driver, but I hit it a lot today. I’ve played well recently and feel in good form,” Karmis said.

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28th July 2023

Spacey chasing glory in FNB Eswatini Challenge

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – It wasn’t the 62 that he opened the tournament with, but Matthew Spacey’s second round of 70 at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate on Friday was still enough to take him into a four-stroke lead going into the final round of the FNB Eswatini Challenge.

Spacey climbed to 12-under-par in this R2 million event and was content with his second round after having extended his lead, with Peter Karmis (70) four strokes behind on eight-under, and Leon Visser, who shot 64 on the first day, tied with Estiaan Conradie on seven-under.

Spacey’s second round began on the 10th hole and he was solid to the turn, with birdies on the 13th and 17th holes seeing him go out in 34.

His back nine was more of a struggle, though. Although he birdied the par-four first hole, three bogeys in his next four holes set him back. But Spacey undid much of the damage with a superb eagle on the par-five eighth hole.

“I’m quite happy that I shot under par,” Spacey said. I started well, but then had a wobble, before getting things right with an eagle on my 17th hole.

“There was a bit more breeze today and it picked up in the afternoon. To be honest, I made a few bad swings against it.

“I’m pretty excited about the final round. Anything can happen and I must just stick to my game-plan. Staying patient is what I’ve done really well, just letting things happen,” Spacey said.

The Nkonyeni Estate is comfortably removed from the urban hustle of Manzini, but the bushveld tranquility was definitely challenged by the course posing a real challenge on Friday.

Danie van Niekerk and JP Strydom registered the low rounds of the day with 67s, which lifted both of them into the top-20 on the leaderboard.

Closest to Spacey, however, was the seasoned Karmis, who overcame two bogeys and a double-drop with four birdies and an eagle, also on the eighth, for a 70 to leave him on eight-under, four behind.

Visser and Conradie are a further stroke behind, while Jean Hugo and Stuart Krog both shot 71s to be on six-under-par.

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KitKat Cash and Carry supports City of Joburg relief effort

KitKat Cash and Carry, a Sunshine Tour partner and sponsor of the KitKat Cash and Carry Pro-Am, has come to the aid of the over 2 000 households affected by the explosion in Lilian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street) in the Johannesburg CBD by providing much-needed food hampers for the affected residents.

The explosion that rocked the city in July left many residents displaced and without water and power.

In a bid to help the City of Joburg’s extensive relief programme, KitKat Cash and Carry has donated 200 food hampers to the emergency efforts.

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27th July 2023

Spacey sets the pace in FNB Eswatini Challenge

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Matthew Spacey has enjoyed a solid start to the 2023/24 Sunshine Tour season with five top-20 finishes, but if he had a criticism of his performance so far it would be that his scoring has not properly reflected how well he has been playing. But the 32-year-old put that all right on Thursday with an outstanding opening round of 62 in the FNB Eswatini Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate.

Spacey’s fabulous 10-under-par round left him two strokes clear at the top of the leaderboard and, remarkably, came after he had parred his first four holes. The birdie barrage then followed with three in a row from the fifth hole and then another at the ninth was the start of another hat-trick of birdies. A third sequence of three-in-a-row began at the 13th and then he went to 10-under with a birdie on the par-four 17th.

“I’ve had quite a good start to the season, but I feel like the scores just haven’t quite been there,” Spacey said after his best ever round, by a staggering four strokes, on the Sunshine Tour. “I’ve played a lot better than where I’ve finished, but today was one of those days when everything clicked.

“I hit every fairway and I missed only one green, so I gave myself a lot of chances. Most of my birdie putts were close to the hole. My game was just very solid all-round.

“I thought I made a very solid start with those four pars because my game-plan was just to keep the ball in play and give myself chances. I just wanted to be patient and eventually the putts will fall. And then I started hitting the ball a lot closer.

“I’ve always liked the Nkonyeni course, it suits me with the way I play off the tee. But I think the way I played today, I might have shot 62 anywhere,” a delighted Spacey chuckled.

Leon Visser, who has never finished in the top-10 on the Sunshine Tour before, also produced an astonishing round to seize second place after an eight-under 64. The 25-year-old fired six birdies and eagled both the eighth and 13th holes, but also suffered two bogeys to leave him two behind Spacey.

In-form veteran Peter Karmis was alone in third after shooting a 66, while Jean Hugo continued his strong start to the season with a 67 that left him in the tie for fourth place alongside Adam Breen, Estiaan Conradie, Keelan van Wyk and Stuart Krog.

The second edition of the FNB Eswatini Challenge enjoys a prize fund of R2 million, double the amount on offer in last year’s inaugural event.

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26th July 2023

More to play for at R2 million FNB Eswatini Challenge

The Sunshine Tour has announced a significant increase in prize money on its schedule, with a host of tournaments, including this week’s FNB Eswatini Challenge, now featuring minimum purses of R2 million.

The prize money increase for the FNB Eswatini Challenge, to be played at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate from 27-29 July, is a particular boost for a tournament only in its second year on the schedule but which has already made a significant impact to the growth of the game in Eswatini.

“It’s quite significant for FNB Eswatini that in the one year since the tournament’s debut we have made such a meaningful contribution to raising the standard of professional golf locally. We are committed to this goal and are particularly excited that of the 120 players that will be playing in the 2023 FNB Eswatini Challenge, 15 of them are local and therefore have a fair chance at the prize fund,” said FNB Eswatini CEO, Dennis Mbingo.

The prize fund increase means this year’s winner will receive double what Jaco Prinsloo earned for winning the inaugural title.

Sunshine Tour Commissioner, Thomas Abt, said the prize money increase are the collective effort of the Tour and its loyal sponsors and partners to keep building on the growth of the past few seasons.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to elevate the status of many of our tournaments and raise their prize money to a minimum of R2 million. For tournaments such as the FNB Eswatini Challenge, this elevates them to Level 2-tier points status on The Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy, which means increased opportunity for those professionals taking part while at the same time strengthening the respective fields. We are thrilled to have a passionate brand like FNB Eswatini join us on this journey and we hope to grow the event with them for many years to come,” said Abt.

In recognizing the growth of the tournament, Mbingo also praised the support and endorsement of the tournament by the regional golf body in Eswatini.

“It’s a significant moment for us as the Sunshine Tour’s support is reflective of the shared commitment we have towards ensuring excellence in the sport. This, however, does not mean we neglect the development imperative as in addition to rewarding consistency and professionalism through the FNB Eswatini Challenge we support the development of junior golf locally.”

Mandla Dlamini, President of the Eswatini Golf Union, said they were extremely grateful to FNB Eswatini and the Sunshine Tour for their contribution to the sport in the country. 

“The bank is already making a significant contribution to the development of our junior golfers and for that we are grateful,” he said.

Musa Mdluli, Chairperson of the Eswatini Professional Golfers’ Association, said this was another major incentive for the country’s local professionals.

“We expect great things from the Eswatini players and it would be an honour to have some of them challenging for the title.”

This year’s field is set to draw professionals from South Africa, Eswatini, the United States of America, Great Britain, Portugal, Greece, and Korea. Other African countries represented include Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Eswatini’s 15 representing golfers will include 13 professionals and two amateurs who qualified through the two-day pre-qualifier last month which featured over 80 local golfers vying for spots in the main tournament.

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25th July 2023

Fleetwood to defend Nedbank Golf Challenge title

Tommy Fleetwood will aim to complete the Nedbank Golf Challenge hat-trick when he returns to Sun City’s Gary Player Country Club from November 9 – 12, 2023.

The European Ryder Cup star last year successfully defended the trophy, which he first won in 2019, as ‘Africa’s Major’ returned to the DP World Tour International Schedule following the Covid-19 pandemic and the Englishman will launch the second defence of his title when the $6,000,000 event returns later this year.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has been a highlight of the South African sporting calendar since its first edition in 1981, with the Englishman among a glittering list of winners including South African golfing icon Ernie Els – a three-time winner of the event – the legendary Seve Ballesteros, and Major Champions Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Sir Nick Faldo, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman and Danny Willett.

Fleetwood has an enviable record at Gary Player Country Club, finishing in a tie for tenth in 2017, a result which helped him towards being crowned Race to Dubai Champion later that year, before defeating Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult in a play-off two years later following a sublime seven under par closing round.

The two-time Ryder Cup player then came out on top of a thrilling final day battle with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox in 2022 to win in South Africa for a second time and the 32-year-old is relishing his return in November.

Fleetwood said: “I’ve got some great memories from the Nedbank Golf Challenge and I’m really excited to get back to Sun City.

“Last year’s event was such a rollercoaster with the weather, and I wasn’t feeling great at the start of the week, so to be able to come out on top on Sunday was amazing.

“It is always special to defend any title but returning to Sun City as defending champion is a true honour. I was lucky enough to be able to do it last year and I can’t wait to do it again this year. Nobody has ever won this event three times in a row so I can’t wait to give that a go.”

Gary Player, the Tournament Host, said: “When we launched this tournament I called on the biggest names in golf to support us, which they did. I am delighted that Tommy continues to do so as well and I can’t wait to greet him on the first tee once again. He has written his name into Nedbank Golf Challenge history as a magnificent champion by becoming only the seventh golfer to win back-to-back titles at Sun City.

“He is a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf who now has the chance to stand alone in the history of this event as its first ever winner of three consecutive titles and to add to the incredible legacy of this great tournament.”

Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive Officer of Sun International, said: “The scenes around the 18th green last year as Tommy celebrated with our Gary Player Country Club course staff and the spectators were some of the most memorable we’ve seen at Sun City in this tournament. We are proud to welcome back such a great champion who has not only written his name into Nedbank Golf Challenge history with his two titles, but also into the hearts of all fans of this great event.”

Mike Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Nedbank, said: “We are delighted that Tommy is returning to defend his title and to also have a shot at history as he seeks to become the first player to win three consecutive Nedbank Golf Challenge titles. Tommy represents everything of the legacy and passion of this event, and as ‘Africa’s Major’ it is a great way to tee off our sponsorship activities for the 41st edition of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.”

The 2023 Nedbank Golf Challenge will once again be included on the DP World Tour schedule in partnership with Nedbank and Sun International and will be the penultimate event before the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. The winner of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit will receive a place in the 64-player field at Gary Player Country Club.

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22nd July 2023

Du Plessis victorious in SunBet Challenge  

PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – CJ du Plessis was able to neutralise the considerable threat posed by Jean Hugo and Neil Schietekat, as well as the pressure of his own expectations, as an extraordinary finish saw the 32-year-old claim his first Sunshine Tour title with a one-stroke victory in the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Saturday.

Heading to the 16th green one stroke behind Hugo, Du Plessis notched a sensational eagle as he drained what he later described as “a 100-foot putt right across the whole green that somehow found the bottom of the cup”.

Hugo birdied the par-five so the duo were all-square when they reached the final hole. Du Plessis’s drive was too far left, however, and found a fairway bunker. But the Silver Lakes Country Club golfer hit a tremendous seven-iron to 12 feet of the hole and made the putt for birdie, his six-under 64 lifting him to 11-under-par for the tournament. When Hugo could only make par, Du Plessis had his first win in his 193rd tournament and following five runner-up finishes.

His remarkable feat left him and many others feeling that this victory was maybe just meant to be.

“I’m ecstatic,” Du Plessis said. “I knew it was going to be a tough day and Jean and Neil would fight all the way, they’re not guys to just give it to you. But it was a phenomenal finish.

“This win was written in the stars. My coach for the last 20-odd years, Raymond Earle, passed away last week and this win is 100% for him. This morning, while I was having my coffee and it was still dark, I saw a shooting star and thought maybe today would be a special day. Sometimes it’s just meant to be,” Du Plessis said.

Schietekat, the 39-year-old current leader of the Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy, just could not get going in the final round, two birdies in the last three holes giving him a one-under 69 that left him on seven-under for the tournament, four strokes behind Du Plessis.

But whether it was going to be 21-time winner Hugo or Du Plessis who would claim the R300 000 first prize was an enthralling battle.

Du Plessis, who began the day one behind, went two ahead with birdies on the first, third and fourth holes, while Hugo could only make pars. But the tables were turned by the time the duo began the back nine, Hugo having birdied the par-three sixth and par-four ninth holes. Du Plessis suffered a double-bogey at the par-three eighth as he over-compensated for the water on the left, but he levelled matters again with birdies on the 11th and 12th holes.

Hugo collected further birdies on the 13th and 16th holes and did little wrong in a bogey-free round of 66. But the 47-year-old just could not match the fantastic finish by Du Plessis.

For the champion, there will be no more uncertainty over whether he can win or not.

“My driving was not the best today, but my short game and putting really pulled me through. I’ve been working really hard on that with Robbie Stewart, my short-game coach.

“Expectations have killed me so many times before, but today I just stuck with my routines and I knew I would be up there if I did that. This win takes so much pressure off, it’s life-changing. I can now prepare for the big events without having to pre-qualify,” Du Plessis said.

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21st July 2023

Top duo lead at SunBet Challenge   

PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – Neil Schietekat fired a superb five-under-par 65 on Friday in the second round of the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast to claim a share of the lead with Jean Hugo going into the final round of the tournament at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club, and admitted part of him would have liked the strong winds that have disrupted the event to continue.

The R2 million Sunshine Tour tournament will now conclude with the completion of the third round on Saturday morning, with Schietekat and Hugo, tied on six-under-par, only due to start their final rounds at 7.45am.

Schietekat, who shot a one-under-par 69 in the first round, started his second round on the 10th and two birdies on his first three holes set him on his way. He was brilliant around the turn with birdies at the 16th, 18th and first holes, before the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golfer collected his sixth birdie on the par-five third hole.

A soft bogey-five on the ninth hole, however, prevented him from claiming the outright lead, as first-round leader Jean Hugo posted a two-under-par 68 to maintain his presence at the top of the leaderboard.

“I like it tougher, I’m very comfortable in difficult conditions. So I wouldn’t mind if the wind does keep blowing on the final day. The forecast is for better weather though, but the greens are still going to be slick and tough. On this Wild Coast course, you always have to be willing to give and take,” Schietekat said.

“Conditions were still tough today and the greens were really slick. But I was really good off the tee today and my irons were there and thereabouts but good enough to hit the greens and I was putting from the right places. I was never in trouble, stuck to my guns and made a lot of good saves as well.”

While this is the first Sunshine Tour event after a six-week break, and the field also had to contend with all the weather disruptions, Schietekat played a tournament on the Asian Tour during the break, finishing 33rd in the Korea Open at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club. It was time well spent.

“It was a really tough course, but at least I’ve had some tournament golf and I got those tournament juices flowing again. It’s been tough to get into a rhythm this week, but in this sort of situation, you’ve just got to go with it,” Schietekat said.

CJ du Plessis has had good times on coastal courses before and he is lurking in third place, his 67 leaving him just a stroke behind the leaders on five-under-par, while Hennie du Plessis came charging on Friday, also shooting a 65 to share fourth place on three-under-par with DP World Tour campaigner Danie van Tonder (68).

Two seasoned golfers in Jaco van Zyl (70) and Peter Karmis (66) are on two-under-par.

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20th July 2023

Seasoned Hugo leads at SunBet Challenge

PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – Tackling the Wild Coast Sun Country Club in the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast over the last two days has been a bit like Squid Game, and we’re not talking about the molluscs that are much-beloved of fishermen and women as they scour the seas off Port Edward, but the South Korean TV survival drama that took the world by storm in 2021.

But veteran Sunshine Tour campaigner Jean Hugo has seen it all before on this challenging, enigmatic course, and the tremendous four-under-par 66 he posted in the first round was enough to give him the lead on Thursday, and it was a mark none of the golfers who began their second rounds were able to pass.

Danie van Tonder, who had reached the turn in his second round in one-under, to go to two-under-par overall, and Jaco van Zyl, who shot a 68 in the first round but also did not get back on the course on Thursday, are the closest to Hugo. They are experienced golfers both, also able to handle the very windy conditions.

But Hugo is right at home on the Wild Coast, having won the Nashua Masters here in 2007, and the last of his 21 professional victories came here in the 2019 Sun Wild Coast Challenge.

“It was tough, play being called off on the first day because it was too windy and balls were moving. It always feels like the wind is up here. But I know what to expect and I had a good result last time here,” Hugo said.

The 47-year-old was on one-under-par through 11 holes when play was suspended on the first day. When he returned on Thursday morning, he could not have wished for a better start, with an eagle on the par-five 12th.

“You normally try to capitalise on the downwind holes here, but 12 was a daunting hole because that side of the course is into the south-wester, which makes it tough. Normally you hit iron and iron over the hill, but today I hit Driver just to get it into play and then three-wood around the corner, a very good shot that went 10 feet behind the hole and I made the putt. So that was an absolutely dream start and then I had a good finish with birdies on the manageable 16th and 18th holes,” Hugo said.

If one is going to get skinned alive by a course, experience does at least allow one to know what to expect. But Hugo said he cannot just rely on his course knowledge as the 54-hole event comes to an end, his game has to be absolutely on-point in the last two rounds.

“The wind is also going to be up on Friday, but in the other direction, so it will probably be tougher. A lot can still change with the scores so I’ll need a good solid start, that makes it easier to maintain things. I’m preparing for a mixed bag tomorrow.

“It’s good to have experience around here, but you still have to play well. You can know where to hit it, but it does not help if you can’t hit the ball there. You still have to bring your best game.

“You need to focus on where to go because looking around, there are a lot of hazards out there. I’ll just be trying to keep it tight,” Hugo said.