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31st August 2023

De Beer chasing maiden win on Sunshine Tour

WHITE RIVER (31 August 2023) – Kyle de Beer produced another fabulous bogey-free round on the second day of the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge at White River Country Club on Thursday, and said he was only going to focus on taking on the golf course shot-for-shot as he goes into Friday’s final round with a two-shot lead.

Playing in only his third Sunshine Tour event but his first as a professional, De Beer fired a six-under-par 65 in Thursday’s second round to climb to 14-under-par for the tournament, stretching his lead after his terrific 63 on the first day.

The most impressive feature of his round was that he birdied three of the par-threes, showing that his iron play was once again impressive.

“I definitely followed up yesterday’s solid round which was really nice. I was a bit more scratchy off the tee today, so I had to work harder with my approach play, but my irons got me out of trouble and I hit some really good shots,” De Beer said on Thursday.

“It feels really good to be bogey-free through 36 holes. I’m very chuffed with that and hopefully I can keep the same going in the final round. I nearly messed it up though on the 18th, but I saved my par with a very nice putt.

“I’ve been in these positions before as an amateur, but I know there will be more pressure and nerves on Friday. I know when I’ve focused on the win and playing against others then I’ve usually come unstuck. I’m going to only focus on playing shot-for-shot and taking on the golf course.

“I know what I need to focus on. I’m going to stick to my guns and back myself. It’s going to be a long day, but I’m ready for it,” the former SA Amateur champion said.

The 25-year-old De Beer’s dreams of a first professional title will face a serious challenge, however, from Dylan Naidoo, another emerging talent who has already won on tour having triumphed in the SunBet Challenge Sibaya event last October.

Naidoo backed up his 66 in the first round with a 64 on Thursday, taking him to 12-under-par overall. Naidoo’s remarkable round included eagles on the par-five seventh and 16th holes, and he also went bogey-free.

In-form 23-year-old Gerhard Pepler posted a 66 on Thursday to move to 10-under-par, and his card was also without blemish.

Hennie Otto (69) and Luke Brown (65) share fourth place on nine-under.

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Gary Player and top pros reflect on the dream of ‘Africa’s Major’

As Gary Player reflects on what the Nedbank Golf Challenge has meant to him since he helped launch ‘Africa’s Major’ over four decades ago, it’s perhaps best also expressed in the words of the world’s leading golfers about what this DP World Tour event means to them.

Since the first tournament in 1981 in which Player himself played and helped to bring together the field, the Nedbank Golf Challenge has captivated the imagination of the world’s leading golfers, from a young Seve Ballesteros duelling with Johnny Miller for the inaugural title, to current champion Tommy Fleetwood growing up watching the tournament on TV with his father and dreaming of his own success there.

This year will be no different as the US$6,000,000 tournament returns to the Gary Player Country Club from November 9-12, with an exclusive 64-man field vying for honours as well as an increased number of 2023 Race to Dubai Ranking Points and a place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” reflects Player. “You start with nothing – not even a golf course. We had to first build the golf course. Then you have an idea. A dream for a tournament. So now, all these years later, to see this dream become the dream of so many others as well is the true legacy of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.”

“Today a professional golfer wins this great tournament, and at the same time a young golfer watching it formulates a dream for himself to one day do the same. That is the power of this dream that started all those years ago.”

It’s a dream defending champion Tommy Fleetwood certainly shares.

“This is a very special event for me,” said Fleetwood. “I’m not South African but I grew up watching this event with my dad every year. I love the history behind it and the winners. When you walk down the ninth hole on the left and you see all the winners from all the years on that walkway, I often thought it would be great to add my name on there.”

Major champion and Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose, who returns to the tournament this year, feels a definite kinship with the event having been born in Johannesburg.

“South Africa is very close to my heart, and to play in front of a South African crowd who love their sport is always good fun.”

Former world number one and triple Major champion Nick Price, winner of three Nedbank Golf Challenge titles and who held the tournament record of 24 under par before it was surpassed by Ernie Els, said the tournament exceeded his own expectations when he was dominating it.

“This tournament has to be one of the best in the world from the players’ point of view. We were treated royally, like kings. It was a different kind of experience for me. I felt conscious of everything that went on, even when I was eating dinner.”

For Ernie Els, an icon of this event, it has always been a special week for him.

“The hospitality towards the players is always at the highest level at Sun City. They look after the players, family, friends and entourage very well indeed. That’s why so many players have wanted to play there over the years. The hospitality is simply wonderful. It’s called ‘Africa’s Major’ and it certainly feels like one.”

European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald has equally fond memories of this tournament.

“It’s an event I’ve always loved coming to. We’ve seen some great champions there and I’ve always loved coming to Africa. It’s just a great place with great people and a very challenging golf course. It’s a long way to come but it’s always worth the trip.”

South Africa’s George Coetzee was a young golfer when he attended his first Nedbank Golf Challenge, and he picked one of the most memorable as he watched the famous playoff between Nick Price and Tiger Woods in 1998.

“I got Nick Price’s ball with his name on it. I also grew up a big Ernie Els fan. I remember really disliking Bernhard Langer because he kept on beating Ernie in this event. For us growing up in South Africa and watching this event, you aspired to work hard and become a professional golfer and to hopefully one day play in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.”

Retief Goosen, one of the elder statesmen of South African golf and a Nedbank Golf Challenge winner in 2004, said the tournament feels exactly like a Major for him.

“This event has always been one of the best in the world. The effort that goes into it is amazing. Around the 18th green with all the grandstands there it feels like you’re playing in a Major Championship.”

Swede Alex Noren said he had to pinch himself when he finally secured a place in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and then won it in 2016.

“It’s unbelievable. I tried to get in this tournament for so many years, and when I got in here, to end up winning, it was unbelievable.”

Since 1981, the Nedbank Golf Challenge has inspired the dreams of some of golf’s greats, and it continues to do so in a new era of the game.

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.

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30th August 2023

Dream Sunshine Tour debut for De Beer in White River

WHITE RIVER (30 August 2023) – Former SA Amateur champion Kyle de Beer is playing in his first Sunshine Tour tournament as a professional this week, but the 25-year-old showed that he is not feeling the pressure as he fired a superb eight-under-par 63 to claim the lead after the first round of the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge at White River Country Club on Wednesday.

Beginning on the 10th hole, De Beer birdied his first four holes to send out a reverberating warning shot that he has arrived. After his 3-4-2-3 start, De Beer showed that par is also a satisfactory outcome on a course that has plenty of trees, water and elevation changes, going to the turn in 32, before picking up four more birdies on the front nine.

The former GolfRSA star, playing on an invitation, is one stroke ahead of the seasoned trio of Jean Hugo, Keenan Davidse and Hennie Otto.

“It was a dream start making four birdies in a row and then I just played very solid with some really nice par-saves and then I picked off a couple of birdies on the front nine,” De Beer said matter-of-factly after his stunning debut. “But I’m very chuffed and I’m very excited just to be playing, to be honest. To shoot 63 is the cherry on top.”

“My approach play was really good, my irons and wedges were really strong, and I hit a lot of approaches inside 10 feet and a few inside six feet. From that distance you back yourself to make birdies, so that was the part of my game that really shone,” De Beer added.

The Gqeberha resident has had a mediocre time on the Altron Big Easy Tour this year with only one top-20 finish in four events, but a step up in quality brought a dramatic improvement in De Beer’s fortunes on Wednesday.

“I haven’t set the world alight this year so far and I’ve been quite disappointed with my results to be honest. My standard of golf has not been very high, but I’m on the Altron Big Easy Tour to develop as a pro, to learn. I’ve put in a lot of work recently and I felt some good golf was just around the corner.

“But it’s still very much a process of getting my confidence back and trusting myself a bit more on the golf course. I’ve wanted to free myself up a bit more and let my game speak for itself and I’m glad to have done it today.

“I’m very proud with how I’ve played and hopefully I can bring my best again on the next two days. But as everyone in golf knows, it’s a whole another day tomorrow, it will be a different story.

“This course is not the longest, but it is challenging and the par-threes are very strong, not crazy-long but there is a lot of trouble lurking. You have to be very straight off the tee here, if you’re not then you’ll end up behind trees or have some very bad lies,” De Beer said.

Hugo would have fancied himself for an even lower round than his 64, having gathered just a single birdie from the four par-fives, while Davidse had a pair of 32s on each nine. Otto started on the 10th and had a blistering front nine, coming home in five-under.

Hennie O’Kennedy had a top-class round on the go as he reached six-under-par through 11 holes, but he then dropped four shots in his last five holes.

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Sunshine Tour celebrates Gary Player’s legacy

Gary Player’s legacy within South African golf and that of his late wife Vivienne and their philanthropic efforts will be celebrated on the Sunshine Tour this week at the Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge, which tees off at White River Country Club on Wednesday.

This 54-hole tournament forms part of a strong tribute over the next few months on Player’s significant role within the South African game.

The winner of this week’s R2-million tournament as well as the next leading 26 professionals in the field will all secure a place in the prestigious Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational at Sun City in November, where a collection of professional golfers, celebrities, sports stars and business leaders will come together to raise funds for The Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation.

And the Nedbank Golf Challenge, also played in November, will celebrate Player’s role in the launching of this iconic tournament.

But it is this week’s tournament in White River that holds a special place in Player’s heart as a celebration of not only his contribution to the growth of the South African game, but also recognition of the phenomenal impact his late wife Vivienne had in his own career and the launching of The Gary and Vivienne Player Foundation, and its global work for charity.

“Vivienne and I were together for 72 years. I was blessed with the most wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She passed away in my arms, and her last words to me were, ‘Please make sure you keep our foundation going for these young children’,” said Player ahead of this week’s tournament.

“Throughout my golf career I have been in a position to help raise millions of dollars to support those less fortunate.”

This week’s tournament is played on a White River Country Club course which Player himself helped to design and the field is a typically strong Sunshine Tour one, including the two latest champions in young stars Ryan van Velzen and Luca Filippi.

“White River is such a beautiful part of the country and the White River Country Club course is a very enjoyable course. The Sunshine Tour has done so much to produce wonderful champions over the years, and I’m looking forward to seeing them take on the challenge this week,” said Player. – Michael Vlismas

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28th August 2023

Kruyswijk breaks through on Challenge Tour

Jacques Kruyswijk birdied his final two holes to claim a maiden European Challenge Tour title at the Dormy Open.

Round four in Sweden was cancelled due to the weather conditions, meaning the tournament would be decided after 54 holes.

The South African was one of a number of competitors who returned to Askersunds Golfklubb on Sunday to complete their third rounds after play was suspended due to heavy rain on Saturday.

With just three holes left to complete, the 30-year-old was two strokes behind overnight leader Aron Zemmer. But after the Italian dropped two strokes, Kruyswijk finished par-birdie-birdie to claim the title by two shots as he signed for a four under par 63 and a nine under total.

“Ecstatic. That’s the only word I can think of,” said Kruyswijk. “It’s been a long week for all of the players. We’ve had so much rain, the course was flooded and last night I knew I had some work to do, I was prepared to play 20 holes. I was thinking to just get into the clubhouse with a score but I played 17 fantastically and played 18 unbelievably. I’m very happy with my finish.”

“The 18th was solid, 4-iron down the middle of the fairway. I had 182 (yards) to the flag and my caddie said let’s just hit a full shot into the flag. So, I hit a 7-iron which finished around a metre from the hole. I was a little nervous around that last one, it’s not a gimme but managed to go in the middle of the cup so I’m very happy.”

A three-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, with his last victory coming just a fortnight ago at the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Zebula, Kruyswijk has now set his sights on a return to the DP World Tour at the end of the season.

“Any win is always big but for me to get over the line in Europe has always been a big thing for me,” he added. “I’ve had a few wins in South Africa and haven’t been able to get over the line in Europe. This means a lot; I’ve had double knee surgery last year which has put me back. Obviously, my confidence was at an all-time low the last couple of months and to be able to see the hard work of my team payoff is unbelievable.”

“I always go on my knees and thank my lord and saviour for everything he is doing for me, without him, nothing is possible. It means the world, to win in Europe and on the Challenge Tour means I can take it to the next step and win on the DP World Tour, I’ve been playing there the last six years and haven’t been able to get the win so hopefully this is some added confidence going forward.”

With his victory, Kruyswijk climbed 256 places on the Road to Mallorca Rankings up to 47th. Frenchman Ugo Coussaud moved up to second on the season-long standings after his runner-up finish.

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27th August 2023

Team triumph for Filippi and Van Velzen in Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship

PRETORIA (27 August 2023) – Luca Filippi and Ryan van Velzen produced some incredible golf under the pressure of a two-hole playoff to win the Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship team event at Pretoria Country Club on Sunday.

Filippi and Van Velzen finished regulation play tied for the lead with Hennie O’Kennedy and Louis Albertse on 18 under par after both teams signed for betterball scores of 64. This after O’Kennedy in particular made some crucial putts coming in to force the playoff.

There was nothing to separate the two teams after the first playoff hole on the par-five 18th, played under a betterball format.

Playing the hole again under a foursomes format, O’Kennedy and Albertse were unlucky to see their ball plug under the lip of the greenside bunker. But Filippi and Van Velzen had still produced enough quality of their own to ensure a birdie and the win.

“We dovetailed well. I had a few difficult holes and Luca backed me up most of the time. But we came through strong in the end. We both made good birdies on the first playoff hole under the betterball format. And then playing the second playoff hole as foursomes, I took the initiative off the tee. I gave Luca a nice number in and he hit a great second into the middle of the green,” said Van Velzen.

For Filippi, Van Velzen’s drive did indeed set up the perfect approach.

“I had a perfect number for an eight iron and just hit it to the middle of the green. I didn’t know that Hennie’s ball was plugged. I think they got a bit unfortunate there, but we took two putts and sealed the deal.”

This was Van Velzen’s second victory on the Sunshine Tour, while Filippi finally broke through with his maiden win.

“It’s been a long time. I’m very emotional to be honest,” said Filippi. “It’s taken two long years and a lot of runner-up finishes. I’ve learnt that patience is key. You can work hard and it will always pay off. I couldn’t be more happy, and especially to win with Ryan this week.” – Michael Vlismas

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26th August 2023

Trio of teams lead into final round of Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship

PRETORIA (26 August 2023) – It’s all bets off and go for broke as Sunday’s final round of the Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship delivers a three-way tie for the lead and a tantalising betterball format at Pretoria Country Club.

The teams of Brandon Stone/JJ Senekal, Louis Albertse/Hennie O’Kennedy and Ryan van Velzen/Luca Filippi will start the final round on 10 under par, two strokes clear of the duo of Rupert Kaminski and James Hart du Preez.

And after two rounds of the more challenging foursomes format, Sunday’s betterball will leave no room for the faint-hearted.

“In betterball someone can shoot 58 with their eyes closed. It’s going to be an aggressive final day and a fun day with all the names up there,” Senekal said of the challenge that lies ahead.

Senekal and Stone have looked extremely composed over the past two days and added a 73 in Saturday’s foursomes, using all of their experience on a tricky day. But they’re well aware that anything can still happen in the betterball format.

“Our job is to just keep doing what we do. We’ve played great golf together and on the final day you’ve just got to put your head down and focus on what we can control. You can’t worry about what the others are doing,” said Stone.

Albertse and his partner O’Kennedy are also pleased to have come through two days of foursomes with a share of the lead, and following a combined 72 on Saturday.

“Two days of foursomes is not easy and sometimes you have to grit your teeth, so we’re really going to enjoy it out there in the betterball on Sunday,” said Albertse, who credits playing with his “best friend” as the reason for their good performance.

“A crucial aspect to a tournament like this is enjoying it. Having a teammate and best friend like Hennie makes it even more enjoyable.”

And the young duo of Van Velzen and Filippi worked their way to a foursomes score of 73 on Saturday, which has put them in with a shot at the trophy.

“Both of us have been on the Sunshine Tour for about a year or two now. Ryan is a winner on Tour already and I’m hoping to join him by adding a trophy this week. It’s always nice being in a leading group. There will be pressure but I’m very excited for the final round,” said Filippi. – Michael Vlismas Media

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25th August 2023

Top teams rise to foursomes challenge in Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship

PRETORIA (25 August 2023) – It was a partnership that was formed at a European Challenge Tour event in Italy, but when Brandon Stone agreed to be JJ Senekal’s teammate for this week’s Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship, it came with a proviso.

“Brandon warned me in Italy already that his wife’s birthday was on the Wednesday before the first round of this week’s tournament, so he may not be in showroom condition,” joked Senekal.

And yet they’ve both been in showroom condition as the duo share the lead on 11 under par with the team of Ryan van Velzen and Luca Filippi.

On a windy day and faced with the far more tricky format of foursomes, both teams rose to the challenge to earn themselves a one-stroke lead over the field.

Senekal and Stone, who have built up a strong friendship on the Challenge Tour this season, combined with a foursomes score of 67.

“We’ve built up a good friendship on the Challenge Tour and it’s nice to use that in this format,” said Senekal.

It’s this synergy that Stone feels has also been good for their golf this week.

“If you can surround yourself with a bunch of guys you enjoy and with personalities that you can get along with, it makes it that much easier on tour. I think we did well together these past few days. I never felt we were out of play at any time during the foursomes round which is a credit to how JJ and I played. On the first day of betterball it felt like we left a few birdies out there, but today we played really good golf. If I keep doing my job and JJ does his, we’ll be looking good come Sunday afternoon,” said Stone.

Alongside them, Filippi and Van Velzen combined equally well as they signed for a 68.

“We both played solid golf and we had 18 birdie putts today, which is quite good especially in foursomes where it can be hard to get into a rhythm,” said Van Velzen.

Saturday’s format is another round of foursomes which Filippi says they’re more than ready for. “We’re looking forward to it. The quality always comes to the top in foursomes. We’ll just stick to the same gameplan.”

Just one shot behind the leaders are the teams of Clancy Waugh and Hunter Epson, Louis Albertse and Hennie O’Kennedy, and Jean Hugo and Ruan Korb.

But no matter the format, Stone is quite clear as to what the weekend represents and his focus.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a team event or individual event. It’s still the weekend of a golf tournament.” – Michael Vlismas

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The secret behind rookie Broomhead’s success

PRETORIA (25 August 2023) – Jonathan Broomhead has a very simple secret behind his strong start to his rookie season on the Sunshine Tour and the four top-10s in eight tournaments that have carried him to the top of the Fortress Rookie of the Year standings.

“Don’t make a big deal out of it,” said Broomhead.

Standing on the putting green at Pretoria Country Club during this week’s Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship, Broomhead reflected on his Sunshine Tour journey to this point.

“When I earned my spot on the Sunshine Tour, I had a chat with my family and for me it was all about not making too much of a big deal about being professional. I feel the more at ease you can be out here, the easier it makes it,” he said.

The former GolfRSA star of the amateur game has certainly looked at ease in the pro arena. After securing his Sunshine Tour card with a second place at Qualifying School in April this year, Broomhead didn’t waste any time and finished tied eighth in his first event – the FBC Zimbabwe Open.

His other tournament highlights have included tied fifth in the SunBet Challenge Sun City, tied 10th in the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast, and tied third in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Zebula where he finished just two shots off the winning total.

“A big factor in terms of my performances has been my caddie Frank. He’s a very experienced caddie who does a great job in keeping me calm on the course, and that allows me to then play my part,” said Broomhead.

The young star is also keen to learn from the more experienced professionals on the Tour.

“I believe firmly in hanging around the right people. There are a lot of experienced professionals on the Sunshine Tour and if you can hang around them you pick up a lot of advice and guidance.”

With several goals to chase and a big summer of opportunity on the horizon in the DP World Tour co-sanctioned tournaments he’s hoping to qualify for, Broomhead is certainly keen to maintain his position at the top of the Fortress Rookie of the Year standings and claim more than just the honour of that title at the end of this season.

The leading rookie will also receive a bonus of R200 000.

But for now, he’s sticking to the plan. Don’t make a big deal out of it.

And it seems to be working. – Michael Vlismas

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24th August 2023

Team Broomhead and Pepler set pace in Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship

PRETORIA (24 August 2023) – It was the pairing that was never meant to be but which worked out perfectly as Jonathan Broomhead and Gerhard Pepler combined for a one-stroke lead after Thursday’s betterball in the Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship at Pretoria Country Club.

Broomhead and Pepler worked to each other’s strengths and came through the first round with an 11-under-par 61, one stroke clear of the team of Wynand Dingle and Heinrich Bruiners, and with the duo of Stefan Wears-Taylor and Trevor Fisher Jnr. on nine under par.

But it was only a few days before this team event that Broomhead and Pepler finally settled on their pairing. 

“I was actually supposed to play with someone else and they pulled out at the last minute, and then Gerhard asked me, and with anybody that hits it as long as he does I was more than happy to say yes,” Broomhead said of how their pairing came about.

It certainly worked for them on Thursday as they managed their gameplan superbly.

“I was going off first on most of the tee boxes and just putting us in play and then Gerhard was just going for it. With his length on this golf course you can really take advantage, and I think we did that,” said Broomhead.

And Pepler was more than happy to be left to play his own game.

“Jonathan hits it really straight which allows me to go for everything, which suits my game. I made some good putts, but it’s easy to make putts when you have four people (two pros and two caddies) helping to read the putts.”

Behind them, Dingle and Bruiners were another pairing that came together at the last minute.

Dingle joked that he was turned down by his friends so approached Bruiners. But the reality is that these two have known each other for long enough to understand exactly how well they can play together.

“We’ve known each other for a long time and everything worked out fine. My driver broke during the round so I just tried to play a supporting role. He played really well and if he missed a green I just tried to hit it on and make a par. I was just there in the background and made a few crucial putts to keep the momentum going. I think we’re both quite excited about the next few days. The motto is to stay aggressive. Wynand is in charge here. He told me we’re not here to play it safe. I’m generally a plot my way around the course kind of player. But Wynand said the flag is red this week and we’re just going to go for everything,” said Bruiners.

But Dingle admitted that Friday’s foursomes format will require a different strategy.

“That’s a different gameplan. You need to be a bit more conservative and can’t be as aggressive as we were today. But we’ll still try and keep moving forward.” – Michael Vlismas