GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – Zander Lombard had a broad smile on his face as he walked the rolling fairways of Humewood Golf Club in his practice round ahead of this week’s Nelson Mandela Bay Championship. “This smells like amateur golf and all those great memories,” he said.
Memories of Humewood and Lombard’s highly successful amateur days came flooding back to him at a time when he now returns to this venerable links as an accomplished professional in tremendous form going into this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour co-sanctioned event. In his last three tournaments on the DP World Tour, Lombard has finished tied second, tied sixth and tied 17th, placing him 20th on the Race to Dubai rankings.
“I’ve been playing really solid golf and I’m just looking to keep building on that. It’s great to be able to come back home and play golf courses like this one again. As an amateur I remember winning the Inter-Provincial Tournament with Gauteng North here in 2010. We used to play this course so much as amateurs and it’s just such a great golf course to come back to.” Lombard also finished fourth in the Eastern Province Stroke Play at Humewood in 2013.
“This is a special place,” said Lombard.
It is indeed a unique week for specifically the Sunshine Tour professionals, playing a links course that has hosted five Investec South African Opens, with Ernie Els winning his national Open here in 2006. It’s a golf course that has a framed letter written by Bobby Locke in its clubhouse in which he declares his fondness for this layout. And at its heart is a mercurial set of fairways and greens, the sheer unpredictability of which is what Lombard so loves about the links game.
“I love links golf for exactly that reason – its unpredictability. We are very hard on ourselves as professionals. But when you play links golf, you can’t control the kind of bounces you’re going to get and that almost gives you a break from that accountability. You see different lines and aim points here. I love the creativity of it.”
Gqeberha local Lyle Rowe, who knows this course better than most and is relishing playing in front of his home fans this week, echoes this approach.
“When you play this golf course, you need to be patient. You’ll get good and bad bounces that are out of your control, and that’s links golf.”
The other defence of this course is the wind, but it’s been a fairly calm build-up to Thursday’s first round.
“It would be nice if there’s a little breeze for this golf course. It just makes it a little bit more interesting,” said Rowe.
This is the fourth and final tournament of the Sunshine Tour-Challenge Tour South African Swing. It’s been a good run so far for the Southern Africans on this stretch with wins by Zimbabwe’s Benjamin Follett-Smith and South Africans Oliver Bekker and JJ Senekal in the last three tournaments. – Michael Vlismas