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7th February 2024

Sunshine Tour and SAGDB clinic at Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open inspires the young golfers of the ganglands

CAPE TOWN – The day that Codi Ruiters fell off building machinery and broke his ankle in the Heideveld squatter camp where he lived with his family in a shack with no running water, electricity or a toilets and in the heart of the ganglands of the Cape Flats was the best day of his life. On that day, in a neighbourhood where children no longer even flinch at the sound of gunshots, Ruiters’ life changed forever.

The machinery belonged to Nedsteel, a company owned by Charles Fourie who came from this same neighbourhood and who was busy with building work for the government. That was the day his path crossed with a young boy who was described as a lost cause, and the game of golf changed that.

As 13-year-old Ruiters hit shots on the driving range at Royal Cape Golf Club this week as part of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open golf development clinic with the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour professionals and a group of South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) golfers, Fourie recalled the journey he has been on with Ruiters.

“When Codi injured himself on our site, I decided to take him under my wing and I arranged for him to be treated and got him to a biokeneticist when his cast came off. I grew up in that area and was lucky to get out of there a long time ago,” says Fourie.

“When Codi came to me he couldn’t read. His school principal told me that I’m wasting my time. He said Codi was a bully and wasn’t even going to pass the year and that he’s a lost cause. I arranged that he gets tutoring three times a week. Now he’s a prefect at the school, a top 10 student there and he plays chess for his school.”

Fourie says Ruiters and his family originally lived in a small shack before he recently helped them to get a flat in the area. The prevalence of poverty, drugs and violence is still overwhelming, and the SAGDB’s golf programme is a vital escape.

Peter Little, an SAGDB Coordinator in the Western Province, has seen first hand the impact golf has had on changing a boy like Ruiters’ reality.

“We have kids who come from the ganglands and some very rough environments. Many of them didn’t know anything about golf and in a year they get down to single-figure handicaps. We get letters from the local schools congratulating us as the SAGDB for the players that we have from there and how their marks have improved.

“Western Province won the last Under-19 Interprovincial and the team had two players from the SAGDB, and one of them was voted the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in the A Division. We’ve also had four tournaments victories by SAGDB golfers this year so far. There is a lot of talent around here.”

Ruiters himself has come down to a six handicap and is a member of the SAGDB National Squad. “I’ve been playing golf for three years now. I love the game because golf can take you far in life. I’d like to be a professional one day like my hero on the Sunshine Tour, Robin Williams.”

It’s exactly what Fourie wants to see happen for Ruiters as he knows the power of sport, and specifically golf, to create opportunities.

“It’s a rough area these kids come from and they grow up in an aggressive lifestyle. But you know, since we’ve been working with Codi and seen the change in him, it’s also helped his family. His own father is no longer using drugs because of the change he’s seen in his son’s life. You can’t help everybody, but you can change one boy’s life.” – Michael Vlismas

Photos: Sunshine Tour professional Michael Hollick helping SAGDB golfer Codi Ruiters with a few swing tips at the golf development clinic ahead of this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club. Credit: Sunshine Tour.

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6th February 2024

Mother City an inspiration as Harding continues comeback in Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open

CAPE TOWN – Justin Harding will continue his comeback to professional golf in this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club, which is the perfect venue for a man seeking the inspiration to return to the form of his 11 victories worldwide.

The City of Cape Town is the ideal backdrop for the 12th edition of this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament, bringing together an international field in an internationally-recognised city.

Cape Town was recently ranked second in the world behind New York as the most desirable city to visit according to Time Out’s World’s Best Cities for 2024. The Mother City also saw a record number of 317 000 overseas visitors in December and 2.9 million visitors during 2023, with a number of the city’s major attractions also receiving a record number of tourists including Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Table Mountain still stands out as one of of the most visited attractions, and it’s against the backdrop of this iconic natural wonder that this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open will play itself out from Thursday to Sunday, with Harding in particular taking another step on his comeback journey in the province where he grew up and honed his game.

Harding made his return to competitive golf on the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour last week following a long struggle with injury.

“It’s been an interesting journey. I developed a limp in September 2022 and the tour doctor sent me for a scan which revealed a stress fracture in my hip. Specialists suggested a 16-week recovery timetable. I had a full card on the DP World Tour and thought I would gradually work my way back, but then I got assessed again last year by the same doctor and the results weren’t good. Another scan revealed a double fracture and that it was a repetative strain issue,” said Harding.

“Before my comeback last week it was over 300 days since my last competitive round. The hardest part in coming back is that you come back with the knowledge of what you did in the past and what you know. I can’t do that anymore because of my body.

“As a professional golfer you also quickly realise how vulnerable you are when an injury likes this occurs. Through no fault of your own you can just lose the opportunity to earn. But I was also blessed to have had a little girl and fortunate to spend 15 months at home looking after her and ticking off those milestones. So now I’m also adjusting to being a dad on the road for the first time. Before I became a dad I never really related to the other dads on tour and how hard it is for them to leave the house and travel. So that’s new for me.

Harding finished second in the 2016 edition of this tournament. That and being back in the province where it all began for him could prove a powerful motivator for him this week.

“I’ve done a lot of good work physically and it’s now about taking that onto the course and in tournaments. Ideally I’d like to be as close to 100% physically and mentally by the time my first full DP World Tour event comes along. If that happens halfway through the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open then that would be great.” – Michael Vlismas

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5th February 2024

Frittelli goes big in Bahrain

Dylan Frittelli won his first DP World Tour title in six years with a two-shot triumph at the Bahrain Championship presented by Bapco Energies.

The South African started the final day at Royal Golf Club with a two-shot lead but was overtaken at the turn and two over for the day after 12 holes as a host of players staked a claim for the trophy.

Frittelli is not a winner on the DP World, PGA and European Challenge Tours for nothing, though, and he made three birdies in four holes from the 13th, signing for a 71 and finishing at 13 under.

Countryman Zander Lombard and Swede Jesper Svensson were his nearest challengers after rounds of 68 and 70 respectively, two shots clear of another South African in Ockie Strydom and Frenchman Frederic Lacroix.

Frittelli enjoyed a fine amateur career, holing the winning putt as the University of Texas won the national collegiate championship in the United States in 2012.

A Challenge Tour graduate in 2016, he won the LYONESS OPEN powered by ORGANIC+ and the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in 2017 before moving to the PGA TOUR and taking the title at the 2019 John Deere Classic.

After a difficult 2023 which left him contemplating his future, he said this week he was “invigorated” to be back on the DP World Tour after taking up a route for those who finished outside the top 125 on the FedExCup Fall Points List and he has now been rewarded with a first worldwide victory since the summer of 2019.

“It feels great, it feels awesome,” said Frittelli, who missed the cut or withdrew from 23 of his 27 starts on the PGA TOUR last season. “It’s been a long road the last five or six years since I left the DP World Tour and went to the States. It was a pretty tough year last year in America but it feels awesome to back on top right now.

“Last year I was in a couple of spots where I thought I was giving the game up to be honest and looking for something else.

“I found some resolve at the end of last year and got some good work from my physio and my coaches and trainers. I’m glad I persevered and all the support from family and friends has been well worth it.”

He added: “I think it shows my mental toughness, it shows the focus I have and those things that you can’t really quantify. I was swinging it great all week and then all of a sudden couldn’t hit it on the planet on the Sunday round so I’m glad I managed to have the resolve.”

Svensson started the day three shots off the lead but a 24-footer at the second and a lovely approach using the contours of the green at the fourth had him within one.

Strydom recovered from a bogey on the fifth with an approach to 14 feet at the next and an excellent tee-shot on the seventh, and that had him in a three-way tie as Frittelli three-putted the par three.

Svensson and Strydom then both took advantage of the par-five ninth – Svensson finding the green in two and Strydom holing a 21-footer to get up and down – but the 39-year-old bogeyed the tenth and 11th to fall back.

Svensson also dropped a shot on the 11th after sending his tee-shot right but Frittelli missed the green on the 12th to leave him alone at the top.

At that point Frittelli was in a four-way tie one shot off the lead but it was soon a three-man group as Lombard moved to the summit.

After a bogey on the first, the 29-year-old birdied the third after laying up, put an approach to 11 feet at the fifth and got up and down on the ninth.

A tee-shot to tap-in range on the 12th had him in double figures and two putts on the 14th had him on top but Svensson made a two-putt gain of his own on the 13th to edge back ahead.

A three-putt from over 80 feet on the 15th dropped Lombard two back and Frittelli was once again the nearest challenger after a smart up and down on the 13th.

Svensson then made an awful mess of the 14th, going from waste area to sand to a tricky lie as he dropped a shot, handing the lead back to Frittelli who made a two-putt gain after a 398-yard tee-shot.

A 42-foot putt on the 16th moved Frittelli two ahead and while Lombard birdied the 17th from eight feet, he had to settle for a seventh DP World Tour runner-up finish as the leader held his nerve.

Strydom bogeyed the 15th on his way home in a 73, while Lacroix had a birdie-birdie finish in his 70.

Canadian Aaron Cockerill and Swede Sebastian Söderberg finished at eight under, a shot clear of Danes Rasmus Højgaard and Niklas Nørgaard, Swiss Joel Girrbach and Frenchman Julien Guerrier. – DP World Tour

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4th February 2024

Rhys rises to the top in SDC Open

BELA-BELA, Limpopo – Welshman Rhys Enoch overcame a weather delay and an onslaught of low scoring in the final round of the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned SDC Open to claim a two-stroke victory at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa on Sunday.

Enoch started the final round one shot behind the leaders and made three straight birdies from the first on his way to a 66 and a winning total of 24 under par.

It was an emotional triumph for Enoch who dedicated the victory to the passing of his father’s best friend on the Friday of the tournament. It’s also a win that comes after a difficult past two years of injury for Enoch.

“I had an operation on my left shoulder in April 2022 and I’ve just had a few niggles. I was trying to improve and didn’t quite have the control I needed. But I’m now a bit more settled with what I’m doing and I feel like I’ve stepped up a level, which is nice,” said Enoch.

It was a thrilling final round of some incredible scoring and a weather delay.

Englishman Joshua Berry turned in 29 and was 11 under before the delay and seemingly on track for a 59. A bogey on the restart cost him that honour, but he still signed for a remarkable 61 to finish on 17 under overall.

Deon Germishuys and Martin Rohwer then came surging up the leaderboard and both signed for rounds of 64 to share second place on 22 under par.

But as he rolled in a birdie putt on the last to win, Enoch says he felt an immense sense of relief.

“It’s been three years since I last won and you keep asking when it will happen again. I’m just so happy to be playing the golf I know I can play again.”

Enoch also wins a four-night stay for two in the Presidential Suite at QWABI Private Game Reserve valued at R150 000 and including accommodation, private dining, drinks, game drives and a signature spa treatment for two.

The Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour now move to Cape Town for this week’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club. – Michael Vlismas

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3rd February 2024

SA duo Nienaber and Albertse challenge for SDC Open glory

BELA-BELA, Limpopo – South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber and Louis Albertse head into Sunday’s final round of the SDC Championship at Zebula Country Club in a tie for the lead on 19 under par and sharing a philosophy to keep the game as simple as possible.

On a day of low scoring in the bushveld, Nienaber signed for a 64 and Albertse a 65 to see them finish one shot clear of Welshman Rhys Enoch, who posted a third round of 66.

Earlier in the day Lyle Rowe surged up the leaderboard with a 63 and a tournament total of 13 under par, and Nikhil Rama played the back nine in 29 on his way to a 65 and a total of 11 under par.

Both Nienaber and Albertse responded to that early pressure.

Nienaber started with a birdie and eagle on his first two holes. “I was so excited after my first two holes that I hit a seven iron into the bush on the third and made bogey there. But when you make a birdie on the first hole it just feels nice. It’s nice to start like that and you feel like you’ve just got to keep going. I just wanted to be at the top at the end of the day and wasn’t too bothered about what anybody else was doing,” he said.

It was the second 64 of his week so far. “It felt pretty easy out there again. I wasn’t too happy about the two bogeys I made, but the rest was good. I hit it on average a little closer to the flags than the previous two days and putted well. I’m hitting it well enough to make birdies out there. I just need to keep the bogeys off the card. It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position but I know how it will feel and what I need to do in the final round. I’m just trying to keep to the basics – one plus one equals two kind of thing. When you overthink this game that’s when it becomes really complicated.”

Albertse has been taking a similar approach.

“I told myself there will be pressure early in the round and I just stuck to my gameplan. Nick Dunlap said recently that pressure is a privilege. I’m very pleased with my performance and I have a good season on the go. I’m just trying to make the game as easy as possible and play the game I know I can play. It’s never easy to win no matter where you are and what you’re doing. But I’m going to just enjoy the final day and do my best.”

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2nd February 2024

Levy finds bushveld inspiration in SDC Open

BELA-BELA, Limpopo – Frenchman Alexander Levy came to the bushveld seeking inspiration on his journey back to the DP World Tour, and he certainly found it amidst the giraffe, wildebeest and a 36-hole total of 12 under par that gives him a share of the lead into the weekend of the SDC Open at Zebula Country Club.

Levy added a second round of 68 to his opening 64 to share the lead with South Africa’s Louis Albertse (65) and Welshman Rhys Enoch (66) at the halfway stage of this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.

The trio are one shot clear of Wilco Nienaber on a leaderboard that is more tightly packed than a game drive at a lion spotting.

“I’m really pleased,” said Levy, who set the clubhouse target on Friday morning before he was caught later in the afternoon. “I didn’t have my A game today so to shoot under par was really good.”

Levy, a five-time winner on the DP World Tour who is looking to regain that form, turned level par for his round while not feeling entirely comfortable with his game. But his experience showed on the back nine as he made four birdies to maintain his place at the top of the leaderboard after also sharing the lead in the first round.

“I’m proud of what I did on the back nine. I was struggling on the front nine and didn’t feel my swing was good. It was the first time I’ve played here in the morning so it was a little bit more windy. But I just said to myself to stay calm and try to hit good shots at the right time. Then I started to play a little better and it’s nice to come back like I did and hit some good shots at the end of the round. I had a good birdie on the last to get some good momentum for tomorrow. The game is there.”

Levy’s experience will certainly count on a weekend that is set up for some thrilling golf.

Nienaber is looking like a golfer who has come into this year with a new approach that is clearly working as he chases his second Challenge Tour title.

On 10 under par Gerhard Pepler’s second round of 64 suggests he is enjoying his time in the bushveld, and Ryan van Velzen is just three shots back and chasing back-to-back victories following his win in last week’s Mediclinic Invitational.

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1st February 2024

Nienaber and Levy share SDC Open lead

BELA-BELA, Limpopo – Wilco Nienaber played his first competitive round after a long break and the 64 he posted was good enough to share the lead with Alexander Levy in Thursday’s first round of the SDC Open at the Zebula Country Club.

Nienaber and Levy lead by one over England’s Chris Paisley and Tom Shadbolt, Spain’s Angel Ayora, South Africa’s Malcolm Mitchell and Dutchman Lars van Meijel. Defending champion JJ Senekal opened with a round of level par 72.

Nienaber made his seven birdies, eagle and one bogey look fairly routine as he showed no signs of any competitive rust in setting the pace as the co-leader in this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament. Frenchman Levy joined him later in the day with a round that included six consecutive birdies.

“I took a long break which was really good. I really tried to put the clubs away and rest. I struggled to do so for longer than two weeks though. I played a few rounds but didn’t really focus on a score, so I’m pleased with this round. It felt pretty easy,” said Nienaber.

Levy was equally delighted with what was also his first competitive round of the year. “I practiced very hard the last few weeks in Dubai and I’m happy with my game today. I missed a few putts on my front nine but I remained patient and that was the key today,” said the five-time DP World Tour winner.

Nienaber certainly looked at ease on Thursday and hinted at a few elements to his game that he focused on in preparing for this week. “My distance off the tee certainly helps on this course. You can get lucky when you hit it offline here. But saying that, I’ve learned to manage that part of my game better. I’m not hitting it full blast the whole time.”

The key to his 64 came on the back nine – his first nine. Amidst his birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th was a very good par save on the par-four 12th hole. “I hit my tee shot left and was in a thorn bush. I got it out into the bunker and then managed an up-and-down for par, so that kept the momentum going.”

He then took advantage with an eagle on the par-five 15th. “I hit a really good drive and then a wedge to five feet and holed the putt. The par fives here are reachable and scoring on them is key here. Having said that I parred two of them today, but that’s good because it means there’s room for improvement.” – Michael Vlismas