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

29th January 2024

Limpopo Championship strengthens province’s status as a golf playground

The Limpopo Province’s growing status as a premium golf destination will once again be showcased by the Limpopo Tourism Agency and the Sunshine Tour when the sixth edition of the Limpopo Championship tees off in April 2024.
The Limpopo Championship at the Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate is one of three major golf tournaments that the province will host on the Sunshine Tour in 2024, including the SDC Open and the Vodacom Origins of Golf.
Strong regional golf tournaments such as the Kudu Amateur Championship, the Big 5 Tournament, the Limpopo Youth Championship and a strong amateur calendar add significantly to the province’s golf offering.
The province also welcomes a new tournament this year in the Limpopo Ladies PGA Pro-Am Championship to be played in August at Koro Creek Bushveld Golf Estate.   
The Limpopo Championship remains the crown jewel in the province’s golf offering and will be played from 4-7 April with a field expected to include defending champion Ryan van Velzen, who will seek to emulate JC Ritchie’s back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2020 as he joins the leading Sunshine Tour professionals in the bushveld to challenge for the R2 000 000 prize fund.
Sports tourism is central to the Limpopo Tourism Agency’s growth strategy and golf continues to deliver impressive results for the province. Golf destination marketing has directly contributed towards an increase in visitors, economic investment, job creation, and golf development.
This year’s Limpopo Championship will showcase this and more in a week-long lifestyle and golf programme that includes live entertainment, an after party, a business exhibition, a pro-am golf day, and hospitality area where fans and their families can experience the best of the Limpopo culture.
“The Limpopo Tourism Agency is proud of its partnership with the Sunshine Tour and the staging of a top professional international tournament in the sixth Limpopo Championship. The Waterberg District is now a sought-after golf destination for South Africa and continues to excite international golf enthusiasts, leisure and business travelers. The district, which is a permanent home of this prestigious tournament, has a myriad of tourist destinations like the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, a RAMSAR Site with over 400 bird species; the Waterberg Biosphere; Makapans Valley World Heritage Site; Welgevonden Private Game Reserve with its approximately 66 lodges; the Waterberg Meander; the Marakele National Park and many private game reserves. To this end, the Agency and its partners are poised to deliver a bigger and better edition of the Limpopo Championship this year,” said Moses Ngobeni, LTA CEO.

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

28th January 2024

Rising star Van Velzen wins Mediclinic Invitational

VEREENIGING, Gauteng – Ryan van Velzen claimed his third Sunshine Tour victory in 10 months when he won the Mediclinic Invitational by four shots in a dominant performance at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Van Velzen carded a final round of 64 – his second 64 of the weekend – to finish on 25 under par overall, with Neil Schietekat taking second place on 21 under par following a closing 67. LB Boshoff, Jason Roets, Jovan Rebula, Dylan Mostert and Yurav Premlall shared third place on 18 under par.

Van Velzen’s victory comes on the back of a strong summer where he challenged for the DP World Tour co-sanctioned Investec South African Open before finishing second, and also adds to his wins in the Limpopo Championship and the Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Team Championship last year.

But this latest triumph has surprised even him considering the long holiday he took before returning to competition again this week.

“I can’t explain it actually. I took a month off from the game and it just came back to me. I got better without practising,” he said.

Van Velzen was only one shot clear of Schietekat going into the final round and it was still a tight contest between the two over the opening holes despite his eagle on the second. But five birdies, an eagle and only one bogey thereafter saw him pull away from the field.

“I hit the ball so well today and didn’t miss many fairways. Before the final round my caddie and I set a target of 25 under par. That’s what we thought would be the winning total. Then we got to 26 under par and set our sights on 28 under, but then just finished the round off.”

Van Velzen’s win is perfect timing as he now heads into a busy few weeks on the Sunshine Tour featuring tournaments co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour and the DP World Tour, and which has given him even bigger goals to aim for.

“I’m trying to win the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy. That’s huge for me. To win that on the Sunshine Tour would be incredible because this tour is just so competitive. That’s my next goal.”

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

27th January 2024

Van Velzen leads by one into final round of Mediclinic Invitational

VEREENIGING, Gauteng – Ryan van Velzen picked up exactly where he ended 2023 by playing the same high quality golf as he signed for a 64 in a weather-interrupted third round to lead the Mediclinic Invitational by a single stroke at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Saturday.

Despite a major thunderstorm that delayed play, Van Velzen showed the composure of a young star who knows he belongs at the highest level of the game as he climbed into the lead on 17 under par.

Behind him on 16 under lies the experience of Neil Schietekat who posted a 66, while the equally experienced Oliver Bekker will start Sunday’s final round just two shots back following a 66 of his own.

Further down the leaderboard, Yurav Premlall is pushing for his maiden victory on the Sunshine Tour at 14 under par after posting a third round of 66, while Dylan Naidoo is also well placed on 13 under par, and also with a round of 66.

But Van Velzen’s incredible 2023 has given him a quiet confidence for the challenge that lies ahead on Sunday. The former GolfRSA elite amateur won twice on the Sunshine Tour last year and came tantalisingly close to a maiden DP World Tour title in the co-sanctioned Investec South African Open where he finished second.

“I took a month off over the festive season just to reflect on how good last year was for me. I put the clubs away and had a good holiday,” said Van Velzen.

“I actually feel like I’m playing better than I was last year.”

The experience he gained from last year showed itself as early as the par-five second hole when Van Velzen hit his second shot into the water and then hit a poor wedge shot to the back fringe of the green before making the putt to save par. Then he chipped in on the par-four third hole for an eagle.

“I think that woke me up a bit because I could’ve easily started my round with a par then a double bogey but instead I was two under through my first three holes.”

Van Velzen will have a world of experience around him on Sunday as he tees off in the final group alongside Bekker and Schietekat.

“It should be nice. I think I’ll be quite calm out there in the final round.”

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

26th January 2024

Schietekat’s 64 just what the doctor ordered at Mediclinic Invitational

VEREENIGING, Gauteng – Neil Schietekat’s “holiday swing”, as he called it, yielded a sublime 64 and earned him a one-stroke lead headed into the weekend of the Mediclinic Invitational at Maccauvlei Golf Club.

The five-time Sunshine Tour winner made two eagles on his front nine as he climbed to 10 under par for the tournament on Friday.

His nearest challengers are Jovan Rebula, Oliver Bekker, Sean Bradley, Ryan van Velzen and Willie Olivier.

Olivier, who shared the first round lead with Bekker, teed off on the 10th and led the field on 11 under with six holes of his second round still to play. But he played those with a double bogey, bogey and just one birdie on his card.

The trio of Bekker, Van Velzen and Rebula remained consistent in terms of their title chase on day two. Bekker signed for a 70 while Van Velzen and Rebula both carded rounds of 69, and Bradley climbed the leaderboard with a 68.

But it was Schietekat who made the biggest move following his round of two under par on Thursday.

“It feels like I’m far from my best still. I’ve still got the holiday swing,” said Schietekat. But there appeared very little rust in his game on Friday.

Eagles on the par-five second and seventh holes and then a birdie on the eighth took him out in 31, and he added four birdies and a single bogey on the back nine to stake his claim for another victory following his latest triumph in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at the Pezula Championship Course in November last year.

“I made two eagles on the front nine and that always sets you up nicely for a low round, and I putted well today. But this is also just a nice golf course and I do enjoy it here.”

The four-round tournament is the perfect preparation early in the year for the upcoming swing of DP World Tour and European Challenge Tour events in February and March.

“This is a great event to start the year off with, and it’s always nice to have new sponsors on the Sunshine Tour like Mediclinic. We’re extremely fortunate to have a full tour in South Africa, and this is a great event to get our campaigns going again after the break.

“I’m looking forward to the next two days to get a little bit more practice in before our co-sanctioned events. But I’m not even taking it day by day now. It’s more like hole by hole. We’ll see what the next two days have in store for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

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

25th January 2024

Olivier and Oliver top of the leaderboard at Mediclinic Invitational

VEREENIGING, Gauteng – Veteran Sunshine Tour campaigner Oliver Bekker did exactly what he intended to do while his Mediclinic Invitational first round co-leader Willie Olivier did what he hopes can lead to the kind of career his more experienced compatriot has had.

The duo opened with rounds of seven-under-par 65 at the Maccauvlei Golf Club to lead by one shot over the group of Quintin Wilsnach, Ryan van Velzen, Matthew Spacey, Makhetha Mazibuko and Jovan Rebula.

Bekker’s name at the top of the leaderboard in the Sunshine Tour’s first tournament of 2024 is certainly to be expected from a man with eight wins on the Tour, a European Challenge Tour title, and a narrow playoff defeat in a DP World Tour event on his CV.

That’s something Olivier is certainly working towards, and his 65 was a big step in the right direction for a 25-year-old professional looking to make his mark on the Sunshine Tour.

“This was a very satisfying start to the year for me, with a good round like this,” said Olivier.

“I’m currently on the bubble in terms of keeping my card for this season with only a few tournaments left for me, so this is a good sign of what is to come. I’m very happy playing the golf I know I can play. I was a bit shaky off the tee at the start of the round and managed my wayward shots to save par. My putter was working though and a lot of birdie putts went in. My irons were also good and I was hitting them close enough, and then rolling them in with the putter always helps.

“There were some snippets of good golf last year and I’m glad everything is coming together now. It’s exciting for the rest of the tournament and the rest of the season.”

Having played on Altron Big Easy Tour, the Sunshine Tour represents a definite step up for Olivier and he’s taking in everything he can to grow his game.

“I didn’t have much off time over the festive season because I knew I had to perform in the new year to keep my card. So I only took about two weeks off and started grinding again. I had one simple thing I needed to work on in my swing to get greater consistency and that’s improved.

“The Sunshine Tour is another level. On the Altron Big Easy Tour there are smaller fields, but on the Sunshine Tour everyone is next level. Everyone’s here for a reason though. We can all play golf and it’s about making your bad shots average and your good shots exceptional. It’s about getting more consistent in your golf. Your bad rounds need to be less damaging and your good rounds need to be very good to compete with the best in South Africa.”

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

Potgieter is youngest winner in Korn Ferry Tour history

Aldrich Potgieter, 19, has become the youngest winner in Korn Ferry Tour history.

Potgieter etched his name into golf lore Wednesday at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club, carding 10-under 278 for a two-stroke victory over Quade Cummins and Kyle Westmoreland.

Potgieter (19 years, 4 months, 11 days) surpasses Jason Day for the record as the Korn Ferry Tour’s youngest winner. The precocious South African also becomes the youngest winner on either the PGA TOUR or Korn Ferry Tour since Ralph Guldahl at the 1931 Santa Monica Open (19 years, 2 months, 3 days).

After 20-year-old Nick Dunlap’s victory at The American Express last week, the youth movement in professional golf is in full force.

Additionally, Potgieter is the fourth teenager to win on the Korn Ferry Tour, joining Day, Sungjae Im and Akshay Bhatia. The previous three are all PGA TOUR winners, with Day winning 13 TOUR titles, Im winning two TOUR events, and Bhatia capturing his first TOUR title at the 2023 Barracuda Championship while playing on Special Temporary Membership.

“I was just trying to make the cut… improve on the status. I didn’t expect this today,” Potgieter said. “I was looking at the leaderboard a couple times and just trying to move up, move up slowly and give myself some chances on the putting green. I felt really comfortable, gave myself those opportunities and holed some of them.

“We saw Nick Dunlap win last week, and that was a reminder that it can be done,” Potgieter said. “I’m just happy to be playing here and to get the opportunity to play here. To make history, that’s just another bonus on top of the win.”

Potgieter began the final round at 3-under par and five strokes behind 54-hole leader Kyle Westmoreland.

After birdies on three of the first four holes, Potgieter bounced back from a bogey at the par-4 seventh with an eagle at the par-5 eighth. A three-putt bogey at the par-3 10th would be Potgieter’s only stumble on the back nine, and he countered it with birdies at the par-4 12th and par-5 14th.

Having pulled even with Quade Cummins, the clubhouse leader at 8-under par who could only watch the leaderboard after he carded a 7-under 65 for the low round of the tournament, Potgieter birdied the par-4 16th for the outright lead. Potgieter closed out the victory and a final-round 7-under 65 with a birdie at the par-5 18th.

Windy conditions made scoring difficult for much of the week, as Potgieter’s winning total of 10-under 278 marked the second-highest winning score in the seven iterations of the event. Only Rafael Campos’ 7-under 281 en route to victory in 2019 was a higher winning total at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club.

Potgieter turned professional last summer following a solo-64th finish at the 2023 U.S. Open. His amateur career included a breakthrough victory at the 2022 Amateur Championship, where, roughly three months before his 18th birthday, he became the second-youngest winner in the history of the storied event.

“I was playing really good golf from a young age, so I thought, from my view, college was like an extra four years of preparing to become professional,” Potgieter said. “I know they have great opportunities, great teams behind them, and you can see a lot of the players are coming from college teams are doing really good. That was an option, but I wanted to get the experience done and just make sure my game is good enough, and just grind it out… learn stuff these guys are going to have to learn now coming out of college.

“After winning (The Amateur), I had to make that decision, and I thought turning pro was a good one.”

Ironically, Potgieter made his professional debut at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Compliance Solutions Championship, finishing T35 as a sponsor exemption a week after his final start as an amateur at the U.S. Open. A week later, Potgieter made his first PGA TOUR start as a professional at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which he played via a sponsor exemption. Three weeks later, Potgieter Monday qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour’s NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank.

Potgieter’s made cut at the U.S. Open also granted him an exemption to Second Stage of 2023 PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry. Playing at the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club site in Valdosta, Georgia, Potgieter won by four strokes, earning him guaranteed starts for the first eight events of the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour season.

Although Potgieter missed his first opportunity at a PGA TOUR card at Final Stage of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry (he finished T81, and only the top five and ties earned TOUR membership), it may not be long before he earns a promotion to golf’s biggest stage.

“Now it’s just adapting to playing every week,” Potgieter said, before noting what he will focus on for the remainder of 2024 as a fully exempt member. “Just keeping the mind straight and moving forward every week, and just forgetting the bad stuff, and trying to move forward every day.” – Korn Ferry Tour (Image: Getty).