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16th June 2024

Viljoen bags third Sunshine Tour title at Mopani Zambia Open

KITWE (Zambia) – Overnight leader MJ Viljoen went out in three-under 33 but would follow that with an even better four-under-par 32 coming in, to cruise to a six-stroke victory in the Mopani Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club on Sunday.

Viljoen’s brilliant final-round 65 lifted him to 16-under-par for the R2.5 million event, well clear of local favourite Dayne Moore, who shot 70 on Sunday to finish on 10-under-par.

The Serengeti Estates golfer has not won since September 2022 and his emotional triumph on Sunday follows a tough time in which he finished 64th in last season’s Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy, the first time he had finished outside the top-30 since 2018/19.

“I needed this win big time and I am very proud of myself for pulling it through. I’ve worked hard for the last few months and it feels really good to get this result. I lost a lot of playing rights last season, so it’s really good to be back in the winner’s circle,” Viljoen said.

The 29-year-old had started the final round with a one-stroke lead over Jacques P. de Villiers and Moore, with the next closest contenders being five strokes back in Heinrich Bruiners, Fredrik From and Kyle Barker.

But neither De Villiers nor Moore were able to keep up with Viljoen as he birdied the fourth, sixth and seventh holes. Viljoen’s only bogey on Sunday came on the par-four 10th hole, cutting his lead to two strokes, but he rebounded superbly with three successive birdies. The coup de grace was an eagle on the 527m par-five 17th.

Having secured an albatross on the fourth on the first day, he birdied the 484m par-five in the last two rounds, and he said his shots on that hole will be one of his favourite memories when he thinks back on his third Sunshine Tour title.

“My shots on four, I almost had a hole-in-one today on the seventh, and the eagle on 17 nearly went in for another albatross, those will be my favourite memories. And also the fans. I played with Dayne Moore on Saturday and so many youngsters were following us around, there was just noise all the time and it was awesome,” Viljoen said.

Zambia’s Moore birdied the first hole to draw level with Viljoen on nine-under, but was four behind by the turn, having dropped a shot on the par-four eighth. A birdie on the 10th saw a two-shot swing and he matched Viljoen with birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, but bogeys on 13 and 16 were his undoing.

Despite an eagle on the par-five 12th, De Villiers battled to build momentum as he mixed two bogeys and a double on the last with three birdies, posting a 71 that left him in third place on nine-under-par.

South Africans Daniel van Tonder (-6) and Barker (-5) rounded out the top five.

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15th June 2024

Viljoen chasing third Sunshine Tour title at Mopani Zambia Open

KITWE (Zambia) – MJ Viljoen may have wondered why his fortunes turned sour on the back nine, but the 29-year-old held his round together to take a one-stroke lead after the third and penultimate round of the Mopani Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club on Saturday.

Viljoen was three-under-par for his round through eight holes on Saturday, but suffered four bogeys coming home. But he showed his mettle by birdieing the 16th and 17th holes to finish with a one-under-par 71 for nine-under-par overall.

Jacques P. de Villiers shot an excellent 68 on Saturday to move to eight-under-par, tied for second with Dayne Moore, who slipped back in the third round with a 74.

Conditions were more difficult on Saturday with the wind picking up around the woodlands course.

“The wind was up today and it kept me busy, especially on the back nine,” Viljoen said. “I almost turned three-under but I was unfortunate on nine. I hot two gorgeous shots but I unfortunately went three metres too far and the ball rolled down the back and from there it’s bogey all day.

“And then on 10 I just nicked a tree, which threw me into trouble. So I had two bad lies in a row and then I had a bad bounce long-right on 13. I just struggled to get momentum on the back nine. But otherwise I was going well and played some flawless golf.”

The Serengeti Estates golfer said positive things is what he will be focusing on going into the final round as he chases his third Sunshine Tour title and his first since September 2022 at the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast.

“I’m trying to look at all the good bounces I got rather than the bad ones and I won’t be changing anything in my game-plan. My mental coach, Shaun Landsberg, has been working with me on uysing bad thoughts to my advantage. Last week I had a breakthrough, I must just let go and let it happen. My focus is going to be on where my confidence is,” Viljoen said.

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14th June 2024

Moore gets memorable hole-in-one to lead Mopani Zambia Open

KITWE (Zambia) – First-round leader MJ Viljoen played another solid round of golf but home favourite Dayne Moore was too great an adversary in the second round of the Mopani Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club on Friday as he shot a spectacular 64, that included a hole-in-one, to snatch top spot on the leaderboard.

Viljoen followed up his excellent 66 in the first round with a two-under 70 on Friday, but still surrendered a two-stroke lead to Moore, whose 64 was his best ever round on the Sunshine Tour.

The Zambian’s hole-in-one came on the par-three third hole, but Moore produced plenty of superb golf as he went bogey-free and collected six birdies as well.

“Three is such a tough hole and I was just trying to get on to the top level, to be honest,” Moore said. “It was 221 metres to the flag and down off the right, and I hit a high six-iron which just came off exactly how I wanted.

“But the scorer at the back of the green wasn’t looking, so there was no reaction. When I walked up to the green, I actually started looking over the green at first. It’s my third hole-in-one and I got one on the Big Easy Tour at Wingate two years ago.

“But apart from being lucky at the third, my putter worked really well, especially on quite a few clutch par putts. And I hit 15 greens in regulation. I’ve been seeing coach Neil Cheetham and he has completely changed my long game, he has helped me a lot. That’s where I was lacking, because my short game has always been something I could lean on,” Moore said.

Moore leapt up to 10-under-par going into the weekend, and Viljoen was also on that mark after 12 bogey-free holes on Friday that included an eagle on the par-five second. But the par-fours coming in proved his stumbling block as he dropped shots on the 13th, 14th and 16th holes, before birdieing the par-five 17th to finish on eight-under-par.

Kyle Barker also had an excellent second round, shooting a 68 to claim third spot on six-under-par.
Jacques P. de Villiers and Fredrik From both shot 70s to share fourth place on four-under-par, while Lyle Rowe completed the top six, notching a level-par 70 on Friday for three-under-par.

Jason Roets was sharing second place after the first round with Keegan Thomas, but tumbled down the leaderboard on Friday, having six bogeys in his 76 that saw him finish on level-par.
Thomas suffered even more, struggling to an 80 in the second round, which left him on four-over-par.

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13th June 2024

Viljoen flies high with albatross to lead Mopani Zambia Open

KITWE (Zambia) – A wonderful albatross at the par-five fourth hole lifted MJ Viljoen to a six-under-par 66 and the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Mopani Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club on Thursday.

Viljoen said his game-plan has generally been to hit three-woods off the tee, but the tee-box being moved up on the 484m fourth hole was why he decided to try his driver. And what a decision it was as he notched the first albatross of his career.

“I keep telling everyone it was just two perfect golf shots. There’s a little sluit in the way on the fourth, and I didn’t expect them to move the tee-box up. That gave me the idea to maybe try driver and I hit it over the sluit and into a perfect position. I had 187 metres to the flag and my six-iron only goes 180 and it was a touch into the wind. So I was never going to go too long and I could just swing as hard as I can.

“It came out just unreal and I saw it going straight for the hole. Jean Hugo and the guys on the next tee-box affirmed that it went in like a putt, if it had missed the hole it would have only been by two or three inches,” Viljoen said.

The tremendous round came at a time when the Serengeti-based Viljoen feels like he is getting back to being the golfer who soared to two Sunshine Tour wins and more than R4 million in prizemoney after joining the tour in 2015. But last season was a real struggle for him as he tried to juggle his commitments at home and playing on the Asian Tour and Challenge Tour; he finished 64th on the Order of Merit Delivered by the Courier Guy, the first time he was outside the top-30 since 2018/19.

He completed the season well, though, with top-20 finishes in the Stella Artois Players Championship and the Limpopo Championship. This season he has finished in ties for sixth, 14th and 34th in the three events so far.

“Last year was a struggle, but I have played good golf in the past so obviously I know what it takes. That kept me mentally alive, even though my head was all over the place playing on the Asian Tour, having some status on the Challenge Tour and trying to keep my card in South Africa. I also struggled with my equipment and made big changes at bad times.

“I was in a downward spiral but then I went back to my old equipment and my old coach, Hendrik Buhrmann. Shaun Landsberg looks after the mental side for me, telling me how the brain works and putting that puzzle together.

“So today was the way I know I can play and even though it’s just one round, it’s nice to get a pat on the shoulder from the game. I’m very happy with my round as a whole, I played very solid golf and I can’t see how I would not have a good score playing like that. It was pretty flawless,” the 29-year-old Viljoen said.

His divine moment on the fourth also separated him from the chasing pack, with Keegan Thomas and Jason Roets both shooting four-under 68s. Thomas was bogey-free around the 94-year-old, 6571m course, the only golfer to achieve that feat on Thursday.

Home favourite Madalitso Muthiya was in a tie for fourth on three-under-par after a 69 that included a seven on the par-five 17th. The Zambian is alongside Lyle Rowe and Heinrich Bruiners.

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12th June 2024

Sunshine Tour and Gauteng Provincial Government take golf to the people

The Sunshine Tour’s long-held ambition of making the game of golf accessible to all South Africans gained momentum this past week as the Tour, alongside the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) -Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation , held golf clinics in Ekurhuleni and  Tshwane this past weekend.

Different to other initiatives, this Sunshine Tour and GPG programme is aimed at retaining identified talents with the view of reintegrating them into the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) which was formed to ensure that the game of golf reached as many young South Africans as possible.

The first of these clinics, facilitated by the Balderstone Sports Institute (BSI), was held at Norkem Park High School in Kempton Park on Saturday while the second was held at Rosina Sedibane Modiba Sports Complex in Laudium, Tshwane on Sunday. Over 80 children – boys and girls – from neighboring areas attended the clinics and they were introduced to the basics of golf under the watchful eyes of teachers from BSI.

“It’s the Tour’s ambition to get as many people involved in the game of golf as possible,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour. “And our partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government provides us with the perfect platform to achieve this objective. As we all know that Gauteng is the home of champions and a perfect place to unearth more talent.

“We have partnered with BSI on this initiative because of their well-established knowledge base and experience in sports development. The aim is to find kids with real potential, put them through a 10-week programme and those who perform well will then be integrated into the SAGDB structure where their development will be facilitated and accelerated.”

Director of Competitive Sport within the Gauteng Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation department, Philasande Muvevi, echoed Abt’s comments, detailing her department’s vision in this regard.

“As a province, we want to produce more champions and this initiative gives us that opportunity. As you may know, many in our communities still view golf as an elitist sports only accessible to those who are wealthy. We are in the process of changing this perception and proving that golf is accessible to everyone.

“The kids we will select from these groups will continue their development in the 10-week programme we have designed and after that, we will see how far they go. The main thing here is to introduce these kids to the game of golf and see who among them has the potential and the love for the game.

“We are fortunate to have partners like the Sunshine Tour because through their connections with BSI, initiatives like these can have proper impact in the lives of these youngsters. The SAGDB is renowned for its track record in producing quality golfers and administrators and having a structure like that as part of this programme is an advantage because we know these kids will be part of a successful story of development in this country.”

The Balderstone Sports Institute, led by Michael Balderstone, has a rich history of producing fine athletes. Toto Thimba Jnr, a winner on the Sunshine Tour and member of the Papwa Sewgolum Class, is one of the great talents the institution has produced over the years.

Balderstone expressed confidence in the initiative, saying his institution is excited to partner with the Sunshine Tour and the Gauteng Provincial Government in this programme.

“We are delighted to partner with the Sunshine Tour and the department of sports and recreation to bring golf to the people,” Balderstone said. “We have kids who have never played golf before and the excitement in the faces is beautiful to see. We will identify 10 kids here and take them through a programme and see what happens.

“Golf is meant to be enjoyed by everyone and we must applaud the Sunshine Tour and the department for doing the best to make sure golf is accessible. It’s a great sport to play and we are just glad to be part of this programme.”

The kids were taken through their paces; shown how to hold golf clubs properly, taught how to hit balls and given activities to help them with balance and basic ball skills. These, coupled with discipline and patience, are fundamental aspects of playing golf. The programme will be reviewed at the end of the 10-week programme to establish areas which must be improved to make the initiative even more impactful. The Sunshine Tour is Southern Africa’s leading golf Tour which has produced 27 major winners including Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen among others.

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7th June 2024

Blaauw wins first title in eight years at SunBet Challenge

SUN CITY – Jacques Blaauw made par at the first playoff hole to win the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City at the Gary Player Country Club on Friday, with the 38-year-old breaking an eight-year win drought and doing it at one of his favourite courses.

It all led to an emotional celebration by Blaauw as he admitted to being “like a madman, going crazy on the phone” with his wife and father shortly after the trophy presentation.

“It’s been a while since my last win – 2016 – but I’ve been playing very well the last two months and I was thinking the win was coming,” Blaauw said, following up his four rounds in the sixties to finish third in the KitKat Cash & Carry Pro-Am a fortnight ago with rounds of 71-71-69 for five-under-par at Gary Player Country Club.

“And I played really well today, besides my finish in regulation play when I bogeyed the 15th and 18th holes. But the wind made conditions really tough today and those last holes were playing difficult.

“I’ve been putting very well recently and my approach play today was much closer than I’m used to, which gave me more chances for birdies. A lot of hard work has gone into this, especially with my driving, which I’ve struggled with lately. But I worked on it yesterday and changed my settings.

“This game keeps you humble, there are more ups and downs. It’s funny, but what I consider to be my first professional win came at the Gary Player Country Club, one of the best courses in the country, when I won the Klipdrift Touring Pro-Am back in 2010/11. I’ve waited so long now for this win, so I was like a madman, going crazy on the phone when I spoke to my wife and dad,” Blaauw said.

Blaauw’s two late bogeys left him tied with Tristin Galant, Yurav Premlall and Jonathan Broomhead as that trio finished their rounds.

Premlall and Broomhead both made bogeys at the last hole, but Galant made an excellent par to force the playoff.

Blaauw and Galant then made their way to the par-five ninth, with both laying up. After their approach shots to the green, it was advantage Galant as he was nine feet from the hole after a fantastic shot, with Blaauw hitting a poor shot, by his own admission, to be 35 feet from the flag.

But Blaauw still attacked the birdie putt, hitting it five feet past but showing his composure and previous winning experience by making the par putt coming back. Galant missed his birdie putt and then unfortunately missed a three-footer for par.

Blaauw had been superb for most of his final round, making birdie on the first two holes and then adding an eagle on the par-five 10th and a birdie on the par-three 12th.

Two superb hits on the 505m 10th with a Driver and a four-iron set Blaauw up with a nine-foot eagle putt, and he was even more delighted with his four-iron into the 18th. Even though he ended up making bogey, the Els Club Copperleaf golfer said “it’s one of the best shots of my career and was crucial to my win”.

Galant shot a 70 on the final day and also suffered late blows with bogeys on the par-five 14th and par-four 17th.

Premlall made his fifth birdie of the round on the par-three 12th to hit eight-under-par, but he then double-bogeyed the par-four 13th and had two more drops coming in.
Broomhead was on six-under-par overall through 10 holes, but then made two bogeys coming in to sign for a level-par 72.

Overnight leader Werner Deyzel suffered a number of body blows on the brutal course, finishing with a seven-over 79 which included a triple-bogey on the 14th.

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6th June 2024

Rookie Deyzel leads the way in SunBet Challenge at Sun City

SUN CITY – Werner Deyzel holds a one-stroke lead after the second round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City on Thursday and the Sunshine Tour rookie said he really likes the Gary Player Country Club course – but only when he hits the ball well off the tee.

Deyzel shot a one-under-par 71 on Thursday to go to five-under-par overall, which was enough to claim the lead going into Friday’s final round as the wind picked up around the Pilanesberg.

The 24-year-old graduated from the Blue Label Development Tour this year and on both of the first two days he has had to feel his way into his round. On the first day, he was three-over after his first two holes, making bogey on the first and then a double on the par-five second. Deyzel then played some remarkable golf to post a 68, which left him one stroke behind leader Martin Rohwer.

On Thursday, he began his round on the 10th and dropped shots on the par-four 11th and on the par-three 12th hole. He then birdied the 13th but bogeyed the 15th, before consecutive birdies at 16 and 17 were followed by another drop on the 18th.

Deyzel seemingly had had his fill of this rollercoaster golf as he started the front nine, birdieing the first, second and sixth holes, with just one bogey coming home, on the par-four third.

“If I hit a good tee-shot then I like the course,” Deyzel joked. “But if you don’t hit a good drive, then this course will really punish you. But the Gary Player Country Club is stunning and I definitely enjoy playing here. I don’t know why I’ve started badly both days, but then it’s just been about keeping my head down and coming out the other end.

“I hit the ball very well and my putter was very hot. Most of my bogeys came from poor tee-shots that weren’t in play, and some of those holes I actually scrambled well to make bogey. But if I can be more consistent off the tee, then the way my irons are, and with my putting, I just need to hit the greens and I can make a really low score in the final round,” Deyzel said.

Playing in just his third Sunshine Tour event, Deyzel has the lead going into the final round, albeit a small one. But he doesn’t believe he needs to approach things any differently than he did when excelling on the Blue Label Development Tour.

“I’m extremely happy with how things went last week at Irene [he finished tied-25th in the KitKat Cash & Carry Pro-Am] and this tournament has been good too. Hopefully tomorrow I can produce another good round, but I will approach it the same as every round. I just have to stick to my game-plan and not get ahead of myself. And I will try to enjoy it,” Deyzel said.

Jonathan Broomhead produced inspired golf on the front nine, with an eagle on the par-five second and two birdies leading him to a 69, which left him tied for second on four-under-par with Lyle Rowe (72).
Rohwer was among six golfers tied for fourth on three-under-par, as he came home in 40 to post a 74.
Tristin Galant also eagled the second and produced some special golf in his 67 to go to three-under, while Yurav Premlall and Jaco Ahlers both fired 68s. Neil Schietekat (69) and Luke Brown (70) are the other golfers tied for fourth.

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5th June 2024

Rohwer targets fast start to season with fast start at Sun City

SUN CITY – Martin Rohwer is eager to start the new season well and get up the Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy as soon as he can, and the four-time Sunshine Tour winner surged to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City on Wednesday.

Rohwer, who began his round with an eagle on the par-five 10th, fired a five-under-par 67 at the Gary Player Country Club on Wednesday to claim a one-stroke lead after the first day of the third event so far this season.

The Kloof Country Club member hit a 270m drive on the 505m 10th and then hit a hybrid just short of the green, from where he sank his chip for the eagle-three. He birdied the next par-five, the 14th, and then gathered three successive birdies on the 18th, 1st and 2nd holes. His final birdie came on the par-four sixth, while he only dropped two shots, making fives on the par-four 13th and eighth holes.

“Obviously it was a great start, chipping straight up the hill into the hole for an eagle on my first, and I played some solid golf after that too,” Rohwer said.

“It was a very cold morning, but then it warmed up and there was really not much wind, it was a lovely benign day.

“I drove the ball really well today, which is obviously a big advantage at Gary Player Country Club because then your second shots are not too difficult. This course does suit my game, I won the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final here in 2022 and last year I had a chance to win this event before finishing third. It’s a fader’s course and I fade the ball off the tee.

“I’m just trying to get up Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy early this season and then I will work on my swing during the break later this month,” Rohwer said.

Rohwer was one stroke ahead of Lyle Rowe and Werner Deyzel, who shot four-under-par 68s.

In stark contrast to Rohwer, Deyzel started his round with a bogey on the par-four first hole and then a double-bogey at the par-five second. But instead of responding with bile, the 24-year-old Deyzel summoned brilliance and played his next 16 holes in a remarkable seven-under-par. He also eagled the 10th and made five birdies.

Zimbabwe’s Stuart Krog, who first came to prominence in 2014 with his tenacious performances in the World Junior Golf Series, shining alongside the most promising Brazilian, South African, Irish, Scandinavian and American talent, was on three-under-par 69 alongside Estiaan Conradie and Sweden’s Fredrik From.