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Sunshine Tour welcomes back limited number of fans at tournaments 1

19th January 2022

American Longbella loving South Africa as he leads Q School

American Thomas Longbella retained his place at the top of the leaderboard after two rounds of the First Stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Tuesday, and seems to be benefitting from practising next to a Masters champion before the start of this event.

Longbella added another round of 67 to climb to 10 under par overall and two strokes clear of South African amateur Christopher Long, who posted a second round of 68. Austria’s Bernard Neumayer, South African Dean O’Riley and his amateur countryman Sean Cronje all finished the day on seven under par.

Longbella, who grew up in Wisconsin, says he’s loving the Maccauvlei layout which reminds him of the golf courses he played as a youngster. And without even knowing it, he says he believes he shared the driving range with the Maccauvlei master himself, Charl Schwartzel.

“Last Friday I was on the driving range hitting balls and there was just one other guy there, but he was kind of behind me a bit so I didn’t really get a good look at him. But I could just hear him absolutely flushing every single shot. Then I went out to play nine holes and my local caddie said to me, ‘Do you know who that was? It was Charl Schwartzel’. I had been really focused on my own warm-up so hadn’t really paid attention, but my caddie seemed pretty convinced it was Schwartzel,” said Longbella.

The American has loved his time in South Africa, and it’s certainly showed in his golf as he signed for a bogey-free round on Tuesday.

“It was a good day again today. I hit the ball much better than I did in the first round. I hit a lot of fairways and greens and I kept it in play off the tee. It’s been fun. This is the first time I’ve been across the Atlantic. I’ve been enjoying the monkeys on the course. I’ve never seen a wild monkey in my life and now every day I’m seeing these little guys running around. It’s been great. Everybody here has been so nice.”

The First Stage finishes on Thursday. Only the top 40 professionals and ties will progress to the Final Stage.

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Prinsloo wins again in Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational

28th March 2021

Prinsloo wins again in Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational

Jaco Prinsloo claimed his second Sunshine Tour victory in three tournaments when he won the Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational at Serengeti’s Jack Nicklaus Signature Design Championship course on Sunday.

Prinsloo finished the five-round tournament on 15 under par 327 with a closing 68, giving him a two-stroke victory over Jaco Ahlers who closed with a 71.

MJ Viljoen and Neil Schietekat shared third place on 11 under par with respective final rounds of 70 and 67.

This was Prinsloo’s third individual career title on the Sunshine Tour, but more significantly his second in his last three tournaments following his win in The Players Championship hosted at Dainfern Golf Estate.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m very pleased to have done so well these last few weeks,” he said.

“I started the tournament really well and then kind of just clawed my way up the leaderboard from there, and luckily today I managed to shoot four under and it was good enough to win by two shots.”

Prinsloo has been in the best form of his career thanks to a decision before these past four tournaments to revert to his more natural game rather than the swing changes he’d been working on. Although he admits the work he’s been doing on his swing has not been entirely in vain and has played a part in his recent success.

He is now top of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and over R200 000 ahead of his nearest challenger in Schietekat.

“It’s kind of hard to grasp, really. I mean, you always hope something like this will happen. This is what we all play for and practise for. That’s why you hit golf balls every day of your life, and I feel like I’m reaching my true potential at the moment.”

The pro-am was won by the team of Fairway Ninjas comprising Riekus Nortje, Ruan Korb, Jacques Nel and Dries van Schalkwyk on 51 under par.

The Sunshine Tour now takes a brief break before a run of three tournaments that will be co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour, starting with the Limpopo Championship from 22-25 April at Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate, and followed by the Cape Town Open from 29 April to 2 May at the Royal Cape Golf Club and then the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt from 6-9 May. – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

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Ahlers leads by one going into final day at Serengeti

27th March 2021

Ahlers leads by one going into final day at Serengeti

The tougher test of a Serengeti Jack Nicklaus Signature Design Championship course armed with a stiff breeze suited Jaco Ahlers as he played his into a one-stroke lead going into Sunday’s final round of the Sunshine Tour’s Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational.

Ahlers signed for a four-under-par 68 on Saturday to move to 12 under par in this five-round tournament. He is one stroke clear of the group of Lyle Rowe (67), Riekus Nortje (70) and Jaco Prinsloo (71).

Ahlers says he’s enjoyed the challenge that Serengeti has presented this week, especially after the most recent tournaments where the cuts were well under par.

“This is a tougher golf course and with the wind today it was an even tougher test, and I like that. I play better in tougher conditions. I’ve always felt very comfortable on this course,” said Ahlers, who is hunting his 10th victory on the Sunshine Tour.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position. Over the last few weeks I’ve played nicely but just couldn’t get the putter going. I missed two of the last three cuts, but only by one shot each. It was nice to finally see a few putts drop this week.

“The goal on this golf course is to try and minimise mistakes, especially with the flag positions on these greens. You can very easily short-side yourself with your approaches if you’re not careful.”

Apart from his aspirations on the Sunshine Tour, Ahlers is also sitting with a newly-minted Asian Tour card in his pocket, and which he cannot wait to use. He qualified for his Asian Tour privileges shortly before lockdown last year, and played one tournament over there before the Tour was suspended as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. It hasn’t resumed since.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there as soon as they start playing again. I’m also into The Open this year, but we’re also waiting to hear whether that’s going ahead. So for now the focus is just here on the Sunshine Tour.”

And it’s as good a place as any to keep his game sharp.

“It feels like the young guys out there and just making birdies from everywhere. We have a lot of youngsters on our Tour who are all really good golfers. The up-and-coming talent in South Africa is just unbelievable. The standard has really gone up, and it’s good for our Tour.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

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Play-off success earns van Tonder maiden win in Kenya

Play-off success earns van Tonder maiden win in Kenya

Daniel van Tonder secured his first European Tour title at the Kenya Savannah Classic supported by Absa after defeating Jazz Janewattananond with a birdie on the third play-off hole at Karen Country Club.

The 30-year-old South African posted a closing seven under par round of 64 to join Thailand’s Janewattananond on 21 under par and after both players parred the first two trips back down the 18th hole, it was third time lucky for van Tonder as he converted his short birdie putt following a sublime approach.

He was eight under par after 13 holes following five gains in a row from the ninth hole, but back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th handed the advantage to Janewattananond. He needed to find something special and he holed a lengthy birdie putt on the final hole to force extra holes.

“I was struggling last week, but this week I found everything and was very happy,” van Tonder said. “I knew if I gave myself some putting chances, I’d make one sooner or later.

“I’ve been working hard. Last year I had four wins on the Sunshine Tour, my stroke average was quite low – then Covid happened and it made everything a bit hard travel-wise and getting in to tournaments. It wasn’t easy. I had to work hard and keep myself motivated. It paid off, so I’m very happy.

“I’m a bit different. I love pressure, if there’s pressure I get more in the zone. For me, I tried to keep it as easy as possible – hit the fairway first, then the second, put the other player under pressure and see what happens from there. I took it shot-by-shot and it worked.”

Van Tonder also was quick to credit his wife and caddie, Abigail, for her part in helping him stay calm when he began to make mistakes.

“I tried to keep it easy. It’s 18 holes, I needed to 18 tee shots and 18 second shots and try to make it as easy as possible. That was in my mind, just to hit fairways first then hit the second on the green and try and make the putt. The first nine went well and I started the second nine also very well. But I had the two bogeys in a row, two big fliers – I don’t know how – but luckily my wife is on the bag and she kept me calm and reminded me of a few things, and it worked.

“It was very special. She’s been on the bag for seven years. She’s been with me through thick and thin. It was very special to see the highs coming together and sharing them.

“It’s very exciting. We’ve been working hard. It took a while, but it came and I’m very happy – my wife is over the moon. I’m very happy and grateful.

“Work hard. Keep your head down, be humble. I love my wife, she’s the rock. She keeps me calm, makes me positive in everything.”

The victory is van Tonder’s fifth in his last 13 worldwide starts, while Janewattananond secured his best European Tour finish since his tied second place at the 2017 Fiji International. England’s Sam Horsfield and Scotland’s Calum Hill both carded seven under par final rounds of 64 to share third place on 20 under par, while David Drysdale, of Scotland, and South Africa’s Jacques Kruyswijk finished two shots further back in a tie for fifth place on 18 under par. – European Tour.

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Limpopo Championship keeps driving growth for Limpopo tourism

26th March 2021

Limpopo Championship keeps driving growth for Limpopo tourism

The Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA) has once again thrown its full support behind this year’s Limpopo Championship, seeing it as a vital component of their goal to drive tourism to the province.

The Limpopo Championship is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour and will be played from 22-25 April at Euphoria Lifestyle Golf Estate.

At the official launch of this year’s tournament at Euphoria on Thursday, the LTA declared its excitement at the growth of this tournament in partnership with Sunshine Tour since it first teed off in 2019, and also announced the return of their popular “golf passport”.

“This year we wish to also resuscitate the golf passport both for professional and recreational golfers in the country and beyond to enjoy some of our pristine golf courses found in Limpopo. We see this as an opportunity for both parties to popularise this initiative to drive domestic tourism in the province. The Limpopo Golf Passport will give golfers an opportunity to play some rounds of golf on any of the participating golf resorts over a given period. The vision is for this golf event to grow annually and to attract the highest level of professionals from South Africa and abroad,” said LTA Board Chairperson, Andrew Dipela.

“The tournament compliments our brand offering and promotion of diverse tourism experiences. This we do not do alone as we collaborate with the private sector organizations to drive for sector transformation. The Waterberg region where this tournament takes place has a myriad of tourist destinations like the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, which is a RAMSAR Site with over 400 bird species, the Waterberg Biosphere, Makapans Valley World Heritage Site, Welgevonden Private Game Reserve with its approximately 65 lodges, Waterberg Meander, Marakele National Park and many private game reserves, to name but a few.”

Ludwick Manyama, the Sunshine Tour Tournament Director, said they were equally pleased to continue their partnership with the LTA and the Limpopo Championship.

“We are excited to partner with organizations like the Limpopo Tourism Agency, which has helped us grow the Limpopo Championship to its current international status. We hope to sustain this partnership as it is adding value to the sport tourism profile of the country but most importantly using golf as the vehicle to showcase to the world the amazing tourism treasures that exist within South Africa.”

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SAGDB receives 18 000 golf balls from Titleist and Sunshine Tour

25th March 2021

SAGDB given 18 000 golf balls from Titleist and Sunshine Tour

The thousands of golf balls used on driving ranges throughout the Sunshine Tour season all go to a very good cause, with the Tour and partner Titleist donating them to the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) to assist with their nationwide development programmes.

At Serengeti Estates on Thursday, during this week’s Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational, the Sunshine Tour and Titleist donated 18 000 golf balls to the SAGDB.

“We are extremely grateful for the golf balls from Titleist and the Sunshine Tour. It goes a long way to helping us run the SAGDB programmes. I’d like to thank all involved for the terrific support,” said Grant Hepburn, CEO of the SAGDB and GolfRSA.

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Prinsloo powers to the top at Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational

23rd March 2021

Prinsloo powers to the top at Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational

Jaco Prinsloo is hunting his second victory in three tournaments after opening with an eight-under-par 64 to lead the first round of the Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational at Serengeti Estates on Tuesday.

Prinsloo, the winner of The Players Championship hosted at Dainfern Golf Estate earlier this month, surged into the lead with a round that saw him birdie two of his first three holes, make an eagle and two birdies over the turn, and close with three straight birdies. His card included one more birdie and two bogeys on Serengeti’s Jack Nicklaus Signature Designed Championship golf course.

He leads by one shot over James Hart du Preez while Jean-Paul Strydom, the winner of the 2019 Tour Championship at Serengeti, Anthony Michael and Daniel Greene finished the first round on six under par.

Prinsloo certainly got the most out of his first round, and is definitely getting the most out of his season on the Sunshine Tour with a run of good form that he says is down to his new approach of playing like he did when he was a kid.

“I had tried to change my swing and while it looked better visually, it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t play with it. So before the Tour resumed this month I went back to my old game. I literally went back to how I used to play as a kid – just aim and hit. And it’s working,” he said.

Behind him, Du Preez also took full advantage of a golf course that played to his strengths on Tuesday.

“It’s a long course off the back, and I’m enjoying playing a course where I can make use of my length,” he said after his opening seven-under-par 65.

“The way the course is set up for this week certainly helps me. The rough is down and the greens are soft because of the rain, so I can afford to take some aggressive lines off the tee. I’ve been playing well the last few events but I’ve just had lapses in my decision making. It was good to have a mentally sharp round today.”

Jbe’ Kruger, last week’s winner of the Gauteng Championship presented by Betway, is back in the hunt again after opening with a 67 on his home course.

And South Africa’s number one amateur and GolfRSA National squad member Christiaan Maas started well with a 70 that puts him in the top 20 after day one. – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour