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Sunshine Tour and Vodacom Origins support Gqeberha community

28th September 2021

Sunshine Tour and Vodacom Origins support Gqeberha community

GQEBERHA, Eastern Cape – The Sunshine Tour travels to the famous Humewood links this week for the next leg on the 2021 Vodacom Origins of Golf Series, and with a clear focus to make a difference outside the ropes and off the fairways in the local community.

Since it first teed off in 2004, the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series has included a strong charity focus at every tournament. Over the years this has included working with the young golfers of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and giving them access to coaching clinics by the Tour’s professionals at the various tournaments, to supporting anti-bullying campaigns and raising funds for various children’s charities.

This week, the official pro-am of the Humewood tournament is raising funds for the Maro Foundation, which was started in 2014 by Pamela Mabini. The pro-am dinner alone raised a significant amount of funding for the foundation.

Mabini, a social and gender activist from Kwazakhele, uses her corporate network to distribute food, blankets, clothes, shoes and hygiene products to the homeless. She has also opened two facilities in Johannesburg for the rehoming of mentally handicapped, disabled or HIV-positive children who have been abandoned by their families.

According to Tshego Malinga, Vodacom’s executive head of department for the Customer Business Unit Eastern Region, this ties in perfectly with their desire to ensure the series makes an impact in the communities where it is played.

“We have the ability to make sure profit meets purpose and I am a firm believer that the two are never mutually exclusive. At the centre of everything we do at Vodacom is the desire to enable our customers to live out their purpose. We do that by connecting them in an environment in which they can express their passions and aspirations.

“But it’s also important for Vodacom to be part of the development of South Africa as a whole, and sport plays a very important part in the development of the nation. We want to help people explore their talent and hopefully some of them can go on to become international icons. We also want to be helpful to the community and the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series has really assisted in the funding of many charities,” Malinga says.

“We want to help those who have less access to things we might take for granted. We need a consciousness of the environment we operate in. So it’s special for us to be able to host this event and help the Maro Foundation in these times of Covid and all the challenges around that.”

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Dimension Data stands firm in support of Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour

9th April 2021

Dimension Data stands firm in support of Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour

The Sunshine Tour, Sunshine Ladies Tour and Dimension Data have announced that the longstanding Dimension Data Pro-Am will still go ahead as planned this May, but without the pro-am element in observance of the Coronavirus health protocols and current restrictions.

The Dimension Data Pro-Am features on both the Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour schedules, with the two tournaments played concurrently at Fancourt from 6-9 May.

News that the tournament, which is one of the longest standing on the Sunshine Tour dating back to 1996 and is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour, will still be played for professionals on both the Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour has been welcomed as a major show of support of South African professional golf from Dimension Data.

“I would like to commend Dimension Data and thank Jeremy Ord for his unstinting support of the Sunshine Tour and the Sunshine Ladies Tour during this challenging time,” said Johann Rupert, Chairman of the Sunshine Tour.

“Jeremy and Dimension Data have long been loyal friends and true servants of the game of golf in South Africa, and this is an incredible decision in continuation of this support.”

Jeremy Ord, Chairman of Dimension Data, said the decision was a difficult one to make, but the right one in the current environment.

“The Dimension Data Pro-Am has established itself as not only a premier golf tournament, but also a gathering of friends as we’ve shared the fairways with sports stars, celebrities, professionals and our valued customers, partners and suppliers from around the world over the years. It is disappointing that as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic we cannot host all our valued amateur guests again this year, but we feel it is the prudent decision to make in the interests of everyone’s safety. However, we remain committed to the Sunshine Tour and the Sunshine Ladies Tour, and I am pleased that we can continue our support in this fashion.”

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, expressed his deep gratitude for the continued support from Dimension Data.

“I think this is an incredible gesture from Dimension Data to offer a solution in a very challenging time, and one which still gives our Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour professionals vital playing opportunities. I would like to thank Jeremy Ord and his team for their support, as well as our Executive Director Selwyn Nathan for his continued influence as we navigate this pandemic’s effect on golf. I also need to thank European Tour Chief Executive Officer Keith Pelley and the European Challenge Tour for their ongoing support of our South African swing of co-sanctioned tournaments.”

This year, the tournament will have a revised format for the Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour professionals.

The Sunshine Tour and Sunshine Ladies Tour fields will each be split and play the Outeniqua and Montagu courses at Fancourt on alternating days for the first and second rounds. Thereafter, the Sunshine Tour field will be cut to the top 60 and ties, and the Sunshine Ladies Tour field to the top 30 and ties. The Sunshine Ladies Tour will then play the final round of their 54-hole tournament at the Outeniqua on the Saturday, while the Sunshine Tour will play the final two rounds of their 72-hole tournament on the Montagu.

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It’s April, and The Masters is back where it should be 4

6th April 2021

It’s April, and The Masters is back where it should be

Take a deep breath. It’s April, and they’re playing The Masters. That’s a big step back towards something normal in these crazy times.

Dustin Johnsons green jacket from five months ago hasn’t even had time to gather dust in the closet, and now were doing it all again in what is the shortest time frame between The Masters in its history.

South Africa will be represented by Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Dylan Frittelli and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

And three-time Masters champion Gary Player will also be there in his role as Honorary Starter on Thursday morning alongside Jack Nicklaus and first-time Honorary Starter Lee Elder. Elder was the first Black professional to compete in The Masters in 1975. It will be a warm meeting between Player and Elder, as Player also invited Elder to compete in the 1971 PGA Championship in South Africa, which was one of the first major tournaments in South African golf to include both Black and White professionals.

Inside the ropes, Oosthuizen makes his 13th appearance in The Masters and may feel he still has unfinished business following his playoff defeat to Bubba Watson in 2012.

Schwartzel is back as the 2011 champion, which made him only the third South African after Player and Trevor Immelman to slip on a green jacket.

Frittelli returns only five months after he challenged for a maiden Major title at Augusta National Golf Club before finishing tied fifth last November.

And Bezuidenhout makes his second appearance in The Masters after a debut in November that saw him finish a solid 38th.

But the key to this years Masters and the likely contenders lies in its date. April.

A November Masters was unique in every sense, but most importantly in the way the Augusta National Golf Club played that week. It was a lot softer than it will be now in April.

But none of that really matters. All that matters is it’s April, the azaleas are in bloom, and a green jacket is up for grabs.

So take a deep breath.

It’s Masters week. – Michael Vlismas

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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 stays on top at Serengeti

24th March 2021

Prinsloo stays on top at Serengeti

Jaco Prinsloo’s decision to play the kind of golf he did as a kid continues to pay off as he retained his lead in the Serengeti Pro-Am Invitational at Serengeti Estates on Wednesday.

Prinsloo signed for a one-under-par 71 on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Design Championship golf course, lifting him to nine under par overall.

He is one stroke clear of MJ Viljoen, James Hart du Preez and amateur Christiaan Maas. The 18-year-old Maas surged through the field with a 66 that puts South Africa’s number one amateur in a perfect position for the next three rounds of this five-round tournament.

Although he described his progress as slower on Wednesday, Prinsloo is happy that his golf was still good enough to keep him at the top of the leaderboard.

“I’m a bit surprised actually because I thought I’d get caught at the top. It was a bit harder out there today. It was cold and there was a bit of wind. I was hitting the ball solid from tee to green, but I wasn’t hitting my approaches as close as I did in the first round. So that left me with a bit more work to do with the putter, but fortunately I managed to hang in there.

“I didn’t have too many scoring opportunities. It was just slow par golf really.”

But Prinsloo’s opening 64 gave him the room to absorb a slower second round.

“I suppose that’s the luxury of having a good first day. You can still just shoot under par the next day, and someone else has to play well to catch you. In a way it’s nice to not play my best and still be at the top of the leaderboard.”

This week’s tournament is unique in that Thursday will be a day off for the professionals.

The halfway cut has been made to the top 50 and ties, and now the pro-am element of the tournament will be incorporated following an auction of the professionals and their amateur partners on Thursday.

Then on Friday they take to Serengeti’s famed Whistling Thorn Par 3 course for the professionals’ third round as well as the first round of the pro-am. They will return to Serengeti’s main Jack Nicklaus Signature Design Championship course for Saturday’s fourth round, which will include the second round of the pro-am. And they will remain here for Sunday’s fifth round, which is also the final round of the pro-am.

“It is quite a unique format. We have a day off and then we’re playing a par three course. I suppose if you were really playing well today you wouldn’t want the break on Thursday. But I’m looking forward to it actually. It’s been four weeks in a row now for me so I need a breather. I’m in good form at the moment and we’ll see if we can continue that on Friday,” said Prinsloo. – Michael Vlismas

Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

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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