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22nd February 2024

Memorable 61 earns Couvra lead in NMB Championship

GQEBERHA, Eastern Cape – It was a day of firsts for Frenchman Martin Couvra as he played the famous Humewood links for the first time and made three eagles in one round for the first time on his way to leading the first round of the NMB Championship on Thursday.

Couvra took advantage of the largely benign conditions when he teed off and posted an 11-under-par 61 to lead this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour event by two strokes.

South Africa’s Neil Schietekat as well as Swede Bjorn Akesson and Australian Hayden Hopewell are his nearest challengers following their opening rounds of nine under.

Couvra is no stranger to golf success in South Africa. The young Frenchman made history when he became the first player to win the South African Stroke Play Championship, the Proudfoot Trophy (the 36-hole qualifying tournament for the SA Stroke Play), and the South African Amateur Championship in full regulation play in the same year, claiming the triple crown of South African amateur golf in 2023.

He was in the same dominant mood on Thursday as he signed for a round of five birdies and three eagles, including back-to-back eagles on the 15th and 16th holes.

“It was just perfect today. I played really well. I’m very happy to have this round in the book. It was just amazing. I’ve never had three eagles in the same round,” he said.

Couvra has looked in good form in South Africa with his finishes of tied 12th in December’s Investec South African Open and then tied sixth in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open earlier this month.

And he certainly enjoyed his first competitive round on Humewood.

“I like links courses and this one is perfect. It changes quite a bit with the different winds here. I didn’t have too much wind though. The conditions were perfect.”

Behind him, Schietekat also admitted the wind was forgiving enough to allow him to take advantage on a layout he is equally fond of.

“It was pretty good. A couple of putts went in and it was a good day. I believe the wind is coming though so that will be fun and games. But I do enjoy this golf course. You’ve got to play different shots and run a lot of them on the ground. This is an amazing golf course. It plays like a true links and I’ve always enjoyed coming back here.” – Michael Vlismas.

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21st February 2024

Sunshine Tour remembers Arnold Mentz

The Sunshine Tour is deeply saddened by the passing of former Commissioner Arnold Mentz.

Arnold was a man with a deep love for the game of golf that shone through in his teaching of the game during his time as head professional of Southbroom Golf Club and Stellenbosch Golf Club, his role as Executive Director of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and a founder trustee of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation.

His desire to see South African golf thrive was given perfect expression in his role as the Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

Even in his later years, Arnold came out of retirement to do what he loved the most – teach golf.

Arnold was a humble servant of our great game who will be sorely missed.

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Inspirational Williams chasing greatness in Gqeberha

GQEBERHA, Eastern Cape – A few weeks ago a young disadvantaged golfer from the ganglands of the Cape was asked who his golf hero was. “Robin Williams,” he said. When the Sunshine Tour professional heard this, he was speechless.

“Wow. That’s inspired me so much,” said Williams, who heads into this week’s NMB Championship on the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour with the chance to continue inspiring a new generation of South African golfers.

Williams is currently ranked 11th on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca Rankings, thanks largely to his third-place finish in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am. That puts him well within the top 20, and if he remains there by the end of this Challenge Tour season he will earn promotion to the DP World Tour.

It’s the goal of the majority of Sunshine Tour professionals competing at Humewood Golf Club this week, and certainly the next step for Williams who is already a winner on the Sunshine Tour.

He showed his ability to compete against the world’s best when he led the first round of December’s Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

“I’ve got the game to win out here and compete. It’s also about learning to handle my emotions and not just my game in the bigger events,” he said.

There’s a similar sense of expectation this week for Dylan Naidoo and Louis Albertse as they seek to build on their solid campaigns during this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned swing, with the NMB Championship the final tournament of this stretch.

Naidoo has finished fourth and 15th in two of the last three tournaments and is currently eighth on the road to Mallorca Rankings.

Albertse has been incredibly consistent with finishes of 16th, third and 15th in the three previous tournaments that places him in fifth position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings. – Michael Vlismas.

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18th February 2024

Vive la Ravetto as Frenchman wins Dimension Data Pro-Am

GEORGE, Western Cape – Frenchman David Ravetto claimed his maiden victory on both the Sunshine Tour and the European Challenge Tour when he won the Dimension Data Pro-Am by two strokes at Fancourt on Sunday.

Ravetto took a two-shot lead into the final round on the Montagu course, and two birdies in his opening three holes and then another two birdies in three holes over the turn kept him beyond reach of the field as he closed with a 69 to finish on 15 under par.

“It feels amazing. I’m really proud of myself with how I played. The last six months haven’t been easy for me and I’m super happy,” said Ravetto.

Remarkably, Ravetto is the first French winner of one of South Africa’s longest-standing pro-am tournaments dating back to 1996.

“The key for me this week was just to play solid golf and try to hit as many good shots as I can. I did that today. Today was windy and the pins were tough. I’m happy I didn’t panic. I made a few early birdies and then just tried to play solid golf thereafter,” he said.

England’s Sam Hutsby did his best to catch Ravetto on the final day. When the Frenchman bogeyed the 13th Hutsby had closed to within one shot of him. But Hutsby’s double-bogey on 17 ended his charge as he signed for a 68 and second place on 13 under par.

South Africans Hennie du Plessis and Robin Williams as well as Spain’s Victor Pastor shared third place on 11 under par.

Ravetto admits that the victory has changed his plans somewhat as he now looks to a year of even greater opportunities.

“This will definitely change my planning a bit. I think I’ll still play the DP World Tour a bit, but this proves to me that I’m good enough to win out here. It’s always nice in South Africa as well. The people are so friendly and the courses are in great condition. The three golf courses here at Fancourt are just amazing.” – Michael Vlismas.

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17th February 2024

Ravetto leads as Manchest also chases Dimension Data Pro-Am glory

GEORGE, Western Cape – Frenchman David Ravetto will take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt, and with South Africa’s Franklin Manchest chasing a possibly career-defining Sunday for himself.

Ravetto held onto his lead as he signed for a 71 on the challenging Links golf course on Saturday, climbing to 12 under par overall in this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.

He is two strokes clear of Manchest who posted his best ever round on the Links of 67. France’s Pierre Pineau and Benjamin Hebert as well as England’s Sam Hutsby are all on nine under par. Pineau signed for a 72 at the Links while Hebert posted a 66 at the Montagu and Hutsby added his 71 on the Links.

In a surprising twist, three of the leading four professionals came from the Links and not, as expected, either the Outeniqua or Montagu courses as the other two possibly more forgiving layouts used for this tournament.

“The Links is the toughest of the three courses here and the pins were also tricky so I knew I had to hit good shots and be patient. I’m pretty happy with my work right now,” said Ravetto.

“On the Links you just need to hang in there and be patient. It’s a really good test of golf.”

Behind him, Manchest worked his way into contention on a golf course he knows well having grown up in George.

“I feel really comfortable here. I had to keep the nerves in tact a bit though. After a solid round in Friday’s bad weather I knew I had a chance and just told myself to keep my head down and go for it. It’s special to shoot a 67 here at the Links, which is my lowest ever score on this course. My putter really delivered today,” he said. – Michael Vlismas.

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16th February 2024

Ravetto beats wind and rain to lead Dimension Data Pro-Am

GEORGE, Western Cape – Frenchman David Ravetto birdied the last for an impressive 66 on a day dominated by wind and rain to lead the Dimension Data Pro-Am by a single stroke going into the weekend at Fancourt.

Ravetto used every bit of the good fortune the draw allowed him in playing the more forgiving Outeniqua course on an incredibly challenging day as he climbed to 10 under par overall.

“It was a good day under the conditions. I’m really happy. I had a good draw playing Outeniqua but I still played really solid golf. I made six birdies and an eagle so it was a really nice round,” he said.

His nearest challenger is South Africa’s Louis Albertse on nine under following a 66 of his own on the Outeniqua.

And countryman Zander Lombard has positioned himself very well as he heads into the weekend just two shots off the lead – alongside Frenchman Pierre Pineau – after also posting a 66 on the Outeniqua.

“It was super tough out there. I think the gusts were up to 70km/h at least and it was absolutely pouring down. The rain sort of came and went but when it came, all of it was coming. It was brutal, and all-in-all in these conditions I’m very happy with my score. I’m happy with my game, the confidence is up, I’ve got no weaknesses so hopefully I can carry it into the weekend,” said Lombard.

The weather and the deluge of rain that fell throughout the day made for a long round for some in the field, especially those who had to also contend with the challenging Links course in their second round as part of the tournament’s format to rotate between Fancourt’s three courses.

Bryce Easton, the leader by two after the first round, was one of those to suffer as he signed for an 80 on the Links to drop to two under par overall.

Defending champion Oliver Bekker suffered a similar score and fate on the Links, ending the day on two over for the tournament.

Knowing exactly what to expect, Ravetto had a simple strategy for his round.

“I knew the conditions were going to be tough so when I arrived I said to myself just hang in there because you’re playing the easier of the three courses here, so just try make a couple of birdies and you’ll be fine at the end of the day.

“There was water on the greens and the course was a lot softer, but it also enabled us to be a lot more aggressive to the pins. The course staff did a really good job of getting the water off the greens and it was actually pretty good conditions for putting.” – Michael Vlismas.

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15th February 2024

Bryce’s broomstick putter cleans up at Dimension Data Pro-Am

GEORGE, Western Cape – Something had to give, and for Bryce Easton it was his putter. After months of playing what he felt was his best golf but not getting the results, Easton switched to a broomstick putter. The result was a 63 to lead Thursday’s first round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt.

Playing the Outeniqua course in this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament, Easton’s round of nine under par earned him a two-stroke lead over Frenchman Benjamin Hebert before the afternoon field struggled through difficult conditions of wind and rain.

“I’ve never gone super low on Outeniqua so that was nice,” said Easton, who will face The Links on Friday as part of the tournament’s rotation between the three Fancourt courses of the Outeniqua, Montagu and Links.

“I’ve found myself in a really strange space where I’ve been knocking on the door and playing good golf and have been close to some of my best ever golf technically, but the results just haven’t been there. My putting cost me a lot of shots on the DP World Tour last season and I lost my card there.

“So I’ve made a switch to the broomstick putter. I’ve been picking the brains of a few golfers on Tour who use it well. I’m just trying to learn how to use it. It’s a totally different method and it’s felt progressively better. But it has taken time. I made the switch knowing that other players who have done so have been really successful with it. Not making putts and shooting level par doesn’t get you anywhere out here, so it’s nice to knock a few putts in and convert the chances I’ve been giving myself.”

Behind him, Hebert certainly looked comfortable with his putting as he started his round with consecutive birdies and then went into Outeniqua’s back nine with two birdies and an eagle in his first three holes on his way to a 65.

“I didn’t expect anything because I never had a practice round on Outeniqua. But I played well and had a great start. It was a perfect day,” he said.

Both Easton and Hebert are cautiously optimistic of their starts in this event, with Friday’s weather expected to test the field again.

“I’ve heard the horror stories about the weather on Friday and I’m playing the Links, which is not ideal. But all I can do is play what’s in front of me,” said Easton.

Hebert has a similar philosophy. “There is a lot of golf to play, with two more different golf courses and the weather looking tough. But we’ll see.”

South Africa’s Luca Filippi, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Jacques Blaauw and Daniel van Tonder as well as Spain’s Victor Pastor will start the second round on six under par, while defending champion Oliver Bekker is four shots off the lead. – Michael Vlismas.

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14th February 2024

Lombard leads strong SA challenge in Dimension Data Pro-Am

GEORGE (Western Cape) – Zander Lombard forms part of a strong group of in-form South African professionals who will seek to end the European dominance of the current Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour Swing when the prestigious Dimension Data Pro-Am tees off at Fancourt on Thursday.

The first two tournaments of this co-sanctioned stretch have been won by Welshman Rhys Enoch and Swede Mikael Lindberg.

It’s in stark contrast with last season’s Swing where the Southern Africans dominated with victories in all four co-sanctioned tournaments.

But the return of Lombard, Casey Jarvis and Jayden Schaper from DP World Tour action has certainly strengthened the South African challenge this week.

Lombard has been in sublime form this year which has carried him to fifth on the Race to Dubai Rankings and a career-high of 100 on the Official World Golf Rankings. Since last year’s Joburg Open, Lombard has finished in the top 16 in seven of his last eight tournaments.

Both Schaper and Jarvis have been solid on the DP World Tour this season as they return to home fairways this week. Jarvis led the first round of the 2023 Dimension Data Pro-Am with an impressive 64.

And Ryan van Velzen drove into Fancourt with finishes of seventh and a playoff defeat in his last two tournaments on this Swing as he holds onto third place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy.

Oliver Bekker is also back to defend his title and is seeking to make Dimension Data Pro-Am history by becoming the first three-time winner of this tournament. Currently Bekker, Darren Fichardt and Nick Price are the only golfers to have won this title twice since it first teed off in 1996.

The amateur field for the pro-am is once again a glittering display of South African sporting talent including rugby stars Schalk Brits, Akona Ndungane, Odwa Ndungane, Schalk Burger Jnr. and John Smit, cricket greats Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher, and former Bafana Bafana star Jimmy Tau.

The 72-hole tournament is played on Fancourt’s three golf courses of The Montagu, The Outeniqua and The Links. – Michael Vlismas.

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11th February 2024

Lindberg holds his nerve in playoff to win Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open

CAPE TOWN – Sweden’s Mikael Lindberg holed a magnificent birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat South Africa’s Ryan van Velzen and win the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club on Sunday.

In a tightly-contested final round, Lindberg birdied holes 16 and 17 to take a one-stroke lead over Van Velzen playing the last. But the Swede three-putted the final green for a bogey to slip into a playoff on 16 under par with a final round of 67. Van Velzen closed with a bogey-free 66.

Both golfers parred the par-four 18th as the first playoff hole. Then playing it again, Lindberg had a similar putt from where he’d three-putted in regulation play, and this time he made no mistake as he holed it.

“It was a rollercoaster day but it was a very good day,” said Lindberg.

It was a fitting end to a tournament that always seemed destined to go down to the wire, with 10 players sharing the lead after the second round and Lindberg one shot clear of a group of seven players going into Sunday’s final round.

In perfect conditions several players made an early run at the lead, including Van Velzen who made two birdies and an eagle in three holes on the front nine. JC Ritchie came with a charge of his own as he made three birdies in his opening four holes. And Louis Albertse birdied the 16th to put him just one shot out of the playoff as he went on to finish third on 15 under with a final round of 67.

But it was Lindberg’s early birdies on the back nine at holes 11 and 12 and then the key birdies on 16 and 17 that allowed him the leeway for his bogey on the last.

“I saw a couple of players made an early move and were playing well out there. The putt on 17 was huge for me. Then as I was walking up to the 18th green I just kept telling myself to just two-putt for the win. But my first putt was probably the worst putt I hit all week – I barely hit the ball. In the playoff I had it in the back of my mind that I’d just three-putted this same putt, so it was a huge relief when it went in.”

Lindberg is the second Swede to win the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open following countryman Anton Karlsson in 2020, and he was delighted to do so as he paid tribute to a wonderful week in the City of Cape Town.

“I love Cape Town. I love the whole culture here and always enjoy my time here. To win here is really special.” – Michael Vlismas

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10th February 2024

Lindberg claims sole lead in Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open

CAPE TOWN – There were 10 golfers who shared the lead going into Saturday’s third round of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open, and yet the leader by the end of the day didn’t come from any one of them. Instead it fell to Sweden’s Mikael Lindberg to overtake them all.

Lindberg teed off five shots behind the leaders on Saturday and signed for a 65 – including two eagles – at the Royal Cape Golf Club that earned him a one-stroke lead on 11 under par in this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.

His nearest challengers on 10 under par are South Africans Michael Hollick, Thomas Aiken, Louis Albertse and Ryan van Velzen; Frenchmen Robin Sciot-Siegrist and Martin Couvra; and Englishman Sam Hutsby.

“I played pretty good all day and obviously I’m pleased to shoot to seven under. I made some really nice momentum putts early in the round which helped,” said Lindberg.

A tight golf course and a stiff breeze combined to prevent any one player making too much of a move away from the field in the third round.

“I saw the wind was forecast to pick up around lunchtime so I felt like even though I was a few shots off the leaders at the start of the day, if I could post a good number today I felt like I could get myself in contention. When I started there wasn’t much wind. I was in a good place to take advantage of teeing off early,” he said.

But even the professionals have been surprised at just how tight this leaderboard has remained.

“Before today’s round there were 10 people sharing the lead, and after 15 holes today I saw that there were 17 players on nine under par. I’ve never really seen that before. It builds up for an interesting Sunday,” said Lindberg.

South Africa’s Albertse also said he was surprised to see so many players in contention going into Sunday’s final round.

“I’ve never experienced a tournament where 10 players have shared the lead. After the second round I was one shot off the lead and I was lying in tied 11th place. It’s very weird. I think this is a golf course where you can’t really run away from the field. It will be hard to see somebody build up a big lead here.” – Michael Vlismas