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22nd January 2023

SA golf celebrates Denis Hutchinson

JOHANNESBURG – South African golf came together to recognise one of its greats at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday as professionals and amateurs celebrated the incredible contribution Denis Hutchinson has made to the game.

The annual Denis Hutchinson Challenge once again brought together professional golfers from the Sunshine Tour, Sunshine Ladies Tour and PGA of South Africa and amateurs from GolfRSA and the South African Golf Development Board to compete as teams in a celebration of Hutchinson’s career as a golfer and a broadcaster.

The team of Ivanna Samu, Nikhil Rama, Kael Strydom and Gregory Jacobs took top honours with 89 points on the West Course.

Hutchinson had multiple victories on the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour in his playing career, including famously being the last amateur to have won the Investec South African Open Championship in 1959. Amongst his many accolades, Hutchinson has been recognised with Lifetime Membership of the Sunshine Tour and as Honorary Life President of the PGA of South Africa.

“Hutchy has been such a wonderful ambassador for South African golf for decades now, both as a player who competed with some of the greats of the game, and then as a commentator who became known as ‘The Voice of Golf’. It’s an honour for all of us in the family of South African golf to come together on a day such as this and take the time to recognise the immense contribution he has made to the game we all love,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

Winning Team Photo (from left to right): Nikhil Rama, Kael Strydom, Denis Hutchinson, Ivanna Samu and Gregory Jacobs at the prizegiving of the Denis Hutchinson Challenge at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday. Credit: Tyrone Winfield.

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18th December 2022

Record win for Rozner in AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open 

MONT CHOISY LE GOLF, Mauritius – Frenchman Antoine Rozner claimed his third DP World Tour title with a record five-stroke victory in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Mont Choisy Le Golf on Sunday.

Rozner took a two-stroke lead into the final round and closed with a 67 on another windy day on the island to win on 19 under par and with the biggest margin of victory in the six editions of this Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour event.

“It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t dream of a better way to finish the year. It’s amazing. It felt like playing at home to be honest. The crowds here were amazing. It was an unbelievable week,” said Rozner, who in 2019 lost a playoff for this title.

Spain’s Alfredo Garcia-Heredia took second place on 14 under par with a final round of 67, while fellow Frenchman Julien Brun finished third on 12 under par following a closing 72.

Rozner withstood an early challenge from Garcia-Heredia who birdied three of his first five holes to close to within a shot of the Frenchman, who made only one birdie through the same stretch.

But when Rozner made eagle on the par-five seventh, and then birdied the eighth and ninth holes to earn himself a five-stroke lead at the turn, it was effectively over as a contest. He bogeyed the 17th but finished with a birdie on 18.

“I played solid all week. My first nine holes was one of my best nines ever. To play that front nine, the harder nine, in five under made a massive difference. I didn’t know the scores and I just tried to stay focused in the moment. I started missing a few shots here and there coming but I had a big enough lead to get it done,” he said.

“Winning is very hard, so this is huge. It tests your mind and your game and I was very emotional at the end. We work so hard for this and to get it done is amazing.”

The 2022 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open has also drawn a glittering array of blue-chip sponsors including Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, Mont Choisy Group, Jaguar, Rogers, Heritage Resorts, IBL, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), 3G Mobile, Phoenix Beverages, Air Mauritius, Mautourco, Fenix XCell Apparel, Hertz, Jacobs, C-Care, Emtel, PRO CARTS, IT Solvz, Häagen-Dazs and Dragon Electronics. – Michael Vlismas

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17th December 2022

Rozner chasing AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open glory

MONT CHOISY LE GOLF, Mauritius – Frenchman Antoine Rozner will take a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at battling his way through a tough third round at Mont Choisy Le Golf.

Playing in a three-club wind, Rozner overcame a bogey-bogey start and fought his way back to a very respectable 68 and the tournament lead on 14 under par.

“Yeah, it was tough out there. It was blowing a lot more than the previous days. The long game was tough and the putting was even worse so I struggled,” said Rozner, who in 2019 lost this title in playoff and is back as a two-time DP World Tour winner and also chasing a place in the European Ryder Cup team.

“I had a big birdie putt on the fourth that helped me a lot. It helped me to get the round going. I was very solid after that. I feel like I missed a lot of opportunities but I still shot four under. In these conditions that was pretty good. Now we have one more round to go.”

His nearest challenger is fellow Frenchman Julien Brun, who posted a 67 and was equally delighted with his performance on a very challenging day.

“I’m very pleased with my patience out there because I struggled at the start. It was crazy tricky out there. Downwind your pitching wedge flies and you still have to assess the bounce on the greens, and these greens have big slopes on them. And then into the wind it was at least a three-club wind. It was tough mentally,” he said.

South Africa’s Oliver Bekker is in third place on 11 under par following a third round of 70, and a maiden DP World Tour victory on Sunday would be a tremendous reward for a golfer who has certainly paid his dues globally this year in securing himself a card.

“I played pretty solid. I didn’t make too many mistakes and I’m feeling good about the final round. This is the kind of golf course where you can make quite a few birdies. If you can get off to a good start and put the guys under pressure you’re in with a good chance. We’ve seen 62s and 64s here this week so even if it’s windy you can still get a good score out there. It’s going to be nice to be a few back and be able to play a bit more aggressive, and see how it pans out.”

The 2022 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open has also drawn a glittering array of blue-chip sponsors including Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, Mont Choisy Group, Jaguar, Rogers, Heritage Resorts, IBL, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), 3G Mobile, Phoenix Beverages, Air Mauritius, Mautourco, Fenix XCell Apparel, Hertz, Jacobs, C-Care, Emtel, PRO CARTS, IT Solvz, Häagen-Dazs and Dragon Electronics.

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16th December 2022

Rozner in the hunt again at AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open

MONT CHOISY LE GOLF, Mauritius – Frenchman Antoine Rozner joined a three-way tie for the lead going into the weekend of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open as he seeks to claim a title that he was denied in a playoff the last time it was played in 2019.

On a windy day that brought out a completely different side to the Mont Choisy Le Golf course, Rozner signed for a sublime 64 to share the lead with Finland’s Sami Välimäki and Spain’s Alfredo Garcia-Heredia on 10 under par. Välimäki, who set the course record with a 62 in the first round, was frustrated with his second round 72, while Garcia-Heredia posted a solid 66 to join the leaders.

They are all one stroke clear of South Africa’s Oliver Bekker, who carded a 71 on Friday.

Rozner was understandably delighted with his performance on a very tricky day.

“I think this is one of the first times in my career where I am happy with every single score on every hole. That doesn’t happen a lot. I don’t think I could score any better on this golf course today,” said the man who in 2019 lost in a playoff to Rasmus Højgaard but who returns as a vastly different golfer with two DP World Tour victories since then.

“It was tricky and tough out there, so I’m really pleased with the way I played. I always missed on the right side and my chipping was great as well. It was tough, especially with the side winds. You had to aim so far right and left with those winds. My putting was also very solid. I’m happy with everything.”

Mauritius certainly suits Rozner and he’s relishing how the island enhances his game. “I like this place. Once you’re off the course you completely disconnect and cannot think about golf. That suits me well.”

Välimäki didn’t get what he was hoping for from his second round and felt his putter was to blame. “It was pretty bad really. We made four easy mistakes and couldn’t make any putts. I just didn’t make putts and had bad chips. I’m still playing good golf but I just need to make those birdies,” he said.

And Garcia-Heredia was thrilled to share the lead as he looks to match the big-game fishing success he’s had on the island by hooking a trophy as well this week.

“I am loving the fishing in Mauritius. The fishing always relaxes me. I’ve caught sea trout, barracuda, a 40kg tuna, kingfish and a few others. Now I have to play some golf. But I enjoyed it a lot out there. It was fun. It was windy, but it was a fair wind. It was always from the same direction, so you just had to adjust for the intensity of the wind. I’m pretty much happy with everything in my game at the moment. I played really solid these first two rounds. I went to see a putting coach because last year wasn’t good, and my putting has improved a lot. I have a good local caddie this week and he knows the greens, so I’m following his advice and it’s going well.”

The 2022 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open has also drawn a glittering array of blue-chip sponsors including Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, Mont Choisy Group, Jaguar, Rogers, Heritage Resorts, IBL, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), 3G Mobile, Phoenix Beverages, Air Mauritius, Mautourco, Fenix XCell Apparel, Hertz, Jacobs, C-Care, Emtel, PRO CARTS, IT Solvz, Häagen-Dazs and Dragon Electronics.

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15th December 2022

Course record for Välimäki to lead AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open

MONT CHOISY LE GOLF, Mauritius – Finland’s Sami Välimäki produced a masterful putting display on his way to a bogey-free course-record 10-under-par 62 and a two-stroke lead in Thursday’s first round of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Mont Choisy Le Golf.

On a day of intermittent rain but not much wind, Välimäki bettered the previous course record of 64 set by South Africa’s Jayden Schaper. South Africa’s Oliver Bekker is his nearest challenger following an equally impressive round of eight-under-par 64, while Frenchman Pierre Pineau had set the morning target with his seven-under-par 65.

“It was a really nice round. I putted very well and made long putts which I haven’t made in the last few weeks. It was nice to get it rolling like I did today,” said Välimäki, who finished second in the recent Joburg Open.

Välimäki and Bekker played together and it was an exhibition of great golf between the two professionals.

“Oliver played great as well so we kept making putts and enjoying the day. I feel like I found a rhythm and speed for these greens and that was the key for the day. The heat wasn’t bad today as well because of the rain. I’ll just keep grinding and hitting good shots to give myself opportunities.”

Bekker was certainly impressed by what he saw in his playing partner’s game.

“It was unbelievable golf. I think we certainly pulled each other along. It was good fun out there. We were quite relaxed even during the rain. Sami is obviously playing some great golf and hopefully in the second round we can keep pushing each other.”

Bekker has always enjoyed Mauritius and this tournament. “I generally play well here. I’ve played every AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and I’ve had several top-10 finishes. I feel comfortable playing here and it showed again today.”

European Ryder Cup hopeful Thomas Detry made a solid start with his opening four-under-par 68. The local Mauritian challenge is also looking good after an opening 72 from Vishnoo Seeneevassen.

The 2022 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open has also drawn a glittering array of blue-chip sponsors including Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, Mont Choisy Group, Jaguar, Rogers, Heritage Resorts, IBL, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), 3G Mobile, Phoenix Beverages, Air Mauritius, Mautourco, Fenix XCell Apparel, Hertz, Jacobs, C-Care, Emtel, PRO CARTS, IT Solvz, Häagen-Dazs and Dragon Electronics.

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14th December 2022

Palm trees and trophy dreams for Strydom in Mauritius

MONT CHOISY LE GOLF, Mauritius – Ockie Strydom arrived in the paradise of Mauritius for this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open still feeling as though he’s living a dream following his maiden DP World Tour victory last week. And his best congratulatory message came in the form of a prescription from his pharmacist.

“He sent me a prescription saying, ‘Take Johnnie Walker every six hours daily. Repeat for a week’. I just laughed,” said Strydom, who had a life-changing win in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship and is hoping to continue that form in this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

“Yesterday we were sitting on the beach here in Mauritius and I put my feet up against a palm tree, and I think it finally did sink in then. It’s still feels like a dream for me. But this is a new week and a new opportunity,” he said.

The Mont Choisy Le Golf course is hosting its first major professional tournament this week, and the Peter Matkovich-designed layout was already showing its character in Wednesday’s windy pro-am.

“It’s my first time seeing this course, but it will be a challenge in the wind. It is wide though, so the opportunities will be there,” said Strydom.

Former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn has played enough golf in Mauritius, including a win in a Legends Tour event here last week, to know the kind of different challenge that this course will present.

“This is a different layout for Mauritius. It’s open and quite generous off the tee but with very tricky greens. It’s all about positioning yourself on the greens. When you first see the course you think this isn’t too difficult, but with the wind and the way these greens are it’s going to pose a lot of challenges,” he said.

South Africa’s Dean Burmester is perhaps best placed to provide insight into this layout as it’s his home course.

“I haven’t seen the golf course look as tournament ready as it does now. It’s great. The wind is up which it always is around this time of the year, and it’s playing tricky. It’s as close as you’ll get to an inland links. It’s open and with nothing to stop the wind, but with very slopey greens. I think it’s just really ready to host this tournament,” he said.

In what is very much an island style to the golf, and in keeping with “The Most Beautiful Week in Golf” theme of this event, the players have been granted permission to wear shorts during the tournament.

It all fits in very well with what is a unique week in golf, and a far more relaxed one at the end of a long year on the fairways.

“It’s amazing to be here. Just to breathe and relax and spend some time on the beach with the kids and watch them build sandcastles, and then play golf on my home course is wonderful,” said Burmester.

“This afternoon we might spend time swimming with the turtles and declutter the mind after a long year.”

The 2022 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open has also drawn a glittering array of blue-chip sponsors including Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, Mont Choisy Group, Jaguar, Rogers, Heritage Resorts, IBL, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), 3G Mobile, Phoenix Beverages, Air Mauritius, Mautourco, Fenix XCell Apparel, Hertz, Jacobs, C-Care, Emtel, PRO CARTS, IT Solvz, Häagen-Dazs and Dragon Electronics.

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11th December 2022

Life-changing Alfred Dunhill Championship win for Strydom

MALALANE, Mpumalanga – Ockie Strydom claimed a life-changing maiden victory on the DP World Tour when he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship by two shots at Leopard Creek on Sunday.

Strydom closed with a 69 to win on 18 under par. Adrian Otaegui took second place on 16 under par with a final round of 68, while Laurie Canter finished third on 15 under par with a 64.

“To sink the winning putt on such a prestigious green as this 18th is amazing for me. Walking onto this island green is always special. It’s something I always wanted to achieve. My dad has also always wanted me to win one of these,” said a delighted Strydom, who before this had 19 runner-up finishes in his career.

“It feels good. I’ve finally done it. To do it on Leopard Creek as well is something special.”

This is by far the biggest victory of his career and significantly changes his plans for the coming season.

“This changes my life. It’s two years on the DP World Tour now. It will be tough with the wife at home and the kids, but in the long run it will be better for them as well.”

Strydom was tied for the lead with Scott Jamieson on 15 under going into the final round. The South African was locked in a battle for the lead on Sunday, and after a double bogey on the par-four ninth he dropped back into the chasing pack.

A number of other players were also making their presence felt at the top of the leaderboard. Canter came through the field and signed for a closing 64 including four straight birdies over the turn. Otaegui, MJ Daffue and Louis Oosthuizen were also all jostling into a threatening position.

But Strydom held his nerve and then produced a scoring burst of four birdies in his first five holes on the back nine that pulled him three shots clear of the field on 18 under par and walking down the last. Otaegui birdied the last while Strydom parred, but the final result was already beyond question.

“It was hard work and a lot of mental toughness that I needed to work on. Jaris my caddie kept me in the game out there. But I’ve also been in this situation quite a lot and I know how to manage it. The double on nine cost me and immediately I made those birdies thereafter. Then I knew I could just play my own game again. To have a three-shot lead playing the 18th calmed the nerves quite a bit.” – Michael Vlismas

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10th December 2022

Strydom and Jamieson share lead at Leopard Creek

MALALANE, Mpumalanga  Ockie Strydom and Scott Jamieson both share a deep passion for Leopard Creek and their desire to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship as they share the lead going into Sunday’s final round.

Strydom equalled the course record with a third round of 63 to climb to 15 under par, and Jamieson – the man who a day earlier had set that course record – signed for a 70 on Saturday to join him at the top of the leaderboard.

They are two strokes clear of the trio of Dean Burmester, Oliver Bekker and Dale Whitnell. Former champion Branden Grace is in a group just three shots off the lead. 

Strydom, who has 19 runner-up finishes to his name, credits his caddie with changing his mental approach and leading to the kind of form that last week saw him set the course record at Blair Atholl during the Investec South African Open, and then challenging again this week for a maiden DP World Tour title.

“Jaris (Kruger) my brother-in-law has made a huge difference on the bag. We understand each other and he keeps me positive. He doesn’t just go for it out there, like I would always do. I’ve always played aggressively. If I could hit driver on a par three I would. Now I’m playing more strategically.

“This is a trophy you want, and to win here at Leopard Creek would be so special. The course is more beautiful than I’ve ever seen it. I’m staying in a house on the golf course. It’s so calm, and that always makes me play my best golf.”

Jamieson is equally determined to complete his love for Leopard Creek with a title on its fairways. “It’s my favourite week of the year,” he said.

The faster green speeds certainly tested the field on Saturday.

“When I saw the green speeds on the first tee box and it was something like 13.7 I thought, ‘Ok. Here we go’,” said Strydom.

“Luckily on the first green I hit a downhill putt about four feet past to get the hang of it. Overall my wedges were close and I didn’t go for dangerous shots. The course was set up quite tough but I hit it in the right places on these greens. Leopard Creek can’t be attacked. It’s either going to come to you and then if it does, well done. If it doesn’t, you’re in big trouble.”

Jamieson struggled to find his form on the front nine and turned one over. But his patience was rewarded on the back nine. “As expected, the course was a little tougher. The greens speeds were up a bit. I knew there would be chances on the back nine and then I had three birdies in a row. I was really disciplined out there. I stuck to my gameplan and got my reward with those three birdies. But we all know the tournament begins on the back nine on Sunday.” – Michael Vlismas

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9th December 2022

Course record has Jamieson hunting Alfred Dunhill Championship glory

MALALANE, Mpumalanga  Scott Jamieson signed for a bogey-free course record nine-under-par 63 to earn himself a three-stroke lead heading into the weekend of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

Finishing in the rain on the 18th on Friday, Jamieson played some of the best golf of his career in a tournament which he says is his favourite week of the year at he set the 36-hole lead at 13 under par.

“It was one of those days where almost everything clicked,” said the Scottish professional. “It’s a special place to hold the course record. It’s also always nice to do so bogey-free. I love playing golf here.”

Jamieson was on form with his putter and had two stretches on both nines where he went on a run of birdies.

“I got on a run in the middle of the front nine where I just kept holing every single putt and that was a nice feeling. To be five under on the front nine, I knew I was in really good shape. But you can’t rest on your laurels here. You’ve got to keep the pedal down and thankfully I was able to make more birdies on the back nine. I also holed some crucial par putts which kept the momentum on my side. And I drove it a lot better today. I made some good swings and hit my targets. We had some rain so the greens were a bit softer as well. It was a good day for me.”

Frenchman David Ravetto and the English duo of Nathan Kimsey and Eddie Pepperell are Jamieson’s nearest challengers on 10 under par. Kimsey actually equalled the course record of 64 shortly before Jamieson broke it. Ravetto posted his second consecutive 67 of the week to remain in contention, and Pepperell signed for a 65.

The South Africans who are lined up on nine under par include MJ Daffue, Dean Burmester, Oliver Bekker and Dylan Mostert.

Burmester is certainly hoping for a collective push from his countrymen on the weekend. “I’m definitely in position to strike and I think a lot of the South Africans have done that, so hopefully we can all rally and keep this leopard trophy at home.”

And Jamieson is ready for that challenge.

“It’s been a good first two rounds and it’s only halfway in this tournament, but it’s my favourite week of the year so I’m up for the challenge.” – Michael Vlismas

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8th December 2022

Inspired Burmester leads at Leopard Creek

MALALANE, Mpumalanga – Dean Burmester was so inspired by witnessing his first rhino dehorning project that he produced a round of seven-under-par 65 with as many birdies as he could muster to contribute to anti-poaching efforts and lead the first day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Thursday.

Burmester and a number of other professionals support a campaign called Birdies4Rhinos whereby they donate money for every birdie they make in the season to rhino conversation. And it was his experience of the dehorning earlier this week that inspired him to produce one of his best back nines ever at Leopard Creek on Thursday.

“What a back nine. Some of the best golf I’ve played in a while. A back nine to remember that’s for sure,” he said as he came home with six birdies to take the lead.

“Earlier this week we went on a rhino dehorning project in the neighbouring Kruger National Park and it was quite an emotional experience. The thought of that came to me after the turn and I just wanted to make as many birdies as I could do keep supporting that cause,” he said.

Burmester leads by one over Lukas Nemecz who did his scoring in the calmer morning conditions, and started his round with three straight birdies. “That makes life a lot easier,” he said.

Former champion Branden Grace is one of five golfers just two shots off the lead.

Burmester is certainly relishing being back in South Africa after a year of travel on both the DP World Tour and PGA Tour. And he’s particular enjoying being back in the bush this week.

“We had a lovely game drive with the family this morning and saw lion and leopard on the way out. That put me in a great mood. We rushed back, I had a quick change and was delighted to hear that we could play in shorts because of the heat, had a bite to eat and then got myself ready and that mood carried into the day. It was probably one of the most fun rounds of golf I’ve had in a while. I hope I can keep enjoying myself. We know this golf course can bite you but America has paid dividends. I’ve played a lot on Bermuda grass this year and that has helped me a lot this week.”

Grace was very happy with his start to a tournament he won in 2014 by a commanding seven shots.

“It’s always nice to come back to South Africa and play golf courses like this, which is one of the best. It’s nice to see how the changes have now settled in here. There is no rough this week so that’s different but the greens will firm up as the week goes on, that’s for sure. This course will show its teeth over the next few days so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
– Michael Vlismas