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6th May 2022

Jung wins Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament

JOHANNESBURG – Yubin Jung booked his place on the Sunshine Tour for next season when he won the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament at Huddle Park Golf Club on Friday.

Jung closed with a 68 to win on 16 under par, one stroke clear of Keelan van Wyk who signed for a final round of 66. Musiwalo Nethunzwi and amateur Anu Gounden finished third on nine under par with respective rounds of 66 and 69.

The leading 15 golfers and those tied for 15th place all earned their Sunshine Tour cards for the 2022/23 season, while the rest received their Altron Big Easy Tour cards.

“I’m really grateful. I felt like my game has been quite good for the last six or seven months. I’ve added more structure to my game and the way I’ve been practicing. I’ve also changed my mental approach towards my game and it’s paid off,” said Jung.

“I’ve got some goals for this season and my goal will be to make the top 50 on the Luno Order of Merit. It means the world to all of us to be able to play in this Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament because it gives us the opportunity to play professional golf for a living.”

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29th April 2022

Calderon leads Top 25 Q School graduates

Chile’s Matias Calderon won the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at the Heron Banks Golf and River Estate on Friday to continue his love with South African golf.

Calderon won the 2018 Eye of Africa PGA Championship, making him the first golfer from Chile to win one of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious titles.

Calderon and England’s Jake Bolton finished the regulation 72 holes tied for the lead on eight under par following respective final rounds of 68 and 65. Calderon then won with a par on the first playoff hole.

“First and foremost, I’m just happy to have secured my Sunshine Tour card. That’s the main objective of the week. But coming down the final stretch I wanted to get the best result that I could, and fortunately for me that was a win,” said Calderon.

“I came to South Africa when I just turned professional and I’ve been around for a few years now. There are very good tournaments here on the Sunshine Tour and the people are very friendly. Overall the organisation of tournaments on the Sunshine Tour is great and I really enjoy it here.”

South Africa’s Sean Cronje finished third on seven under par with a closing 70.

The top 25 and ties qualified for the Sunshine Tour next season. – Michael Vlismas.

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20th January 2022

Longbella and Gilson lead Q School group into Final Stage

American Thomas Longbella and South African amateur Gregg Gilson led the golfers who made it through the First Stage of the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Thursday.

Longbella signed for a final round of 72 and Gilson carded a 68 to both finish the 54-hole qualifying tournament on 10 under par. They ended one shot clear of South Africa’s Dean O’Riley and his amateur countryman Christopher Long.

The top 40 players and ties progressed to the Final Stage of Qualifying School, which will be played in April.

Longbella has been top of the leaderboard since round one and was delighted to make it through on his first attempt.

“It feels great to make it through. I’m excited for the Final Stage now, and hopefully the golf then is as good as it was this week. I’m flying back to the United States now and then I’ll be back here in April for the next step on the journey,” he said.

Gilson was equally pleased to advance.

“It was a good week. I’m just more relieved to get through. That was always the goal. To play well was a bonus though, and it will give me some confidence going into the Final Stage.”

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Sunshine Tour welcomes back limited number of fans at tournaments 1

19th January 2022

Weather forces cancellation of round at Q School

The third round of the Sunshine Tour’s First Stage of Qualifying School had to be cancelled on Wednesday because of a waterlogged Maccauvlei Golf Club course.

A severe thunderstorm early in the day forced the golfers into the clubhouse, and thereafter the course was deemed unplayable.

“We pulled the golfers off the course just before a big thunderstorm, and we had about 25 millimetres of rain in 20 minutes. The course was waterlogged as a result of this because the water table here is already pretty high with all the rain they’ve had. After a course inspection we deemed it not possible to play today,” said Reinard Kilian, the Tournament Director.

The tournament has now been reduced to 54 holes, with the third and final round to be played on Thursday.

American Thomas Longbella leads the field on 10 under par overall, two strokes clear of South African amateur Christopher Long. Austria’s Bernard Neumayer, South African Dean O’Riley and his amateur countryman Sean Cronje are all on seven under par.

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Sunshine Tour welcomes back limited number of fans at tournaments 1

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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Sunshine Tour welcomes back limited number of fans at tournaments 1

17th January 2022

American Longbella shares Q School lead with an ace

The journey to secure a place on the Sunshine Tour teed off for many prospective touring professionals this week with the first round of the First Stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Monday.

American Thomas Longbella and South African amateur Sean Cronje led the scoring on day one with rounds of five-under-par 67. Longbella’s round included a hole-in-one on the par-three 16th. “I’ve just bought my playing group some drinks,” Longbella said after the round. “I wasn’t hitting my nine iron well all day. On the 16th tee my caddie said, ‘C’mon, give me a nine iron in the grooves’ and I was like, ‘Sure, I’d love to do that. I’ve been trying all day’. And then I absolutely flushed it. It pitched 10-feet past the hole and then trickled back in. It was a good day.”

Longbella said his decision to come out to South Africa and enter the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School was based on watching Erik van Rooyen’s progress on the PGA Tour.

“Just watching Erik convinced me that the Sunshine Tour is a good place to come and play.”

Longbella and Cronje lead by one over the South African trio of Rigardt Albertse, brother of Sunshine Tour professional Louis Albertse, Dylan O’Leary and amateur Christopher Long.

Albertse was delighted with his start. “It went very well. I was very good from the tee, had a few loose iron shots and then was very good with my short game,” said the man who is making his second attempt at the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School, and who has the benefit of some inside knowledge thanks to his brother.

“Thanks to Louis I have a good idea of what life on the Sunshine Tour is all about. It’s a dream of mine to play on the Sunshine Tour.”

Long was equally pleased to make such a good start to a week which he sees as playing a vital role in his future aspirations.

“When you look at the likes of Garrick Higgo, Louis Oosthuizen and so many others, they all started here on the Sunshine Tour. This is a great foundation and that’s the plan for me.”

The Tour’s Qualifying School has drawn a field of professionals and amateurs from South Africa as well as England, Germany, the United States, Austria, South Korea, Switzerland, Reunion Island, Zimbabwe, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.

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

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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