SOUTHBROOM, KwaZulu-Natal – The most obvious thing young, up-and-coming golfers need is the opportunity to compete, and veteran Sunshine Tour campaigner Hennie Otto has praised the sponsors of this week’s event at San Lameer, Vodacom, for the critical role they have played in the development of the sport in this country.
Otto has been on tour since 1997/98, when it was actually known as the Vodacom Tour, and is teeing it up this week in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series event at San Lameer Country Club as one of the favourites, given his ninth position on the current Luno Order of Merit.
As a senior statesman of the tour and someone who has enjoyed its benefits so much, Otto is eager to ensure the younger generation get the same exposure and rewards.
“Vodacom have been involved in golf in this country for more than 20 years and what they’ve really done is develop golfers,” Otto said after the first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Pro-Am at San Lameer.
“Every young golfer needs opportunity in order to have a successful career, and if nobody creates those opportunities for them, then they won’t get them.
“I’ve played with Mr Mzimba [William, CEO Vodacom Business Group] a few times in these Vodacom Origins of Golf Pro-Ams and he tells me about the dozen or so development players they help. Hopefully those guys really come through, and even if just five of them do then it is still something special.
“The tour is definitely growing and I think in the years to come, it is just going to get bigger,” Otto said.
While the Sunshine Tour has seen a number of very promising young players shine this year, the fairways are still very much the lair of experienced pros like Otto, Jean Hugo, who is seventh on the Luno Order of Merit, and Jaco van Zyl, who won last weekend at Selborne Park Golf Club.
The 46-year-old Otto is still hitting the ball well and looked in hot form last weekend when he finished second to Van Zyl at the Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge. It was his fourth top-six finish this season, a ray of hope after a couple of very tough years following the passing of his wife in 2020.
“As a senior, some of the guys call me ‘Oom’, but this ‘Oom” can still play now and again,” Otto smiles. “I’ve been doing nicely, I just haven’t finished off like I want to.
“But I’m close to where I want to be both mentally and physically, although I’m a bit overweight – I’ve had a few braais,” he laughs.
“But there are nice tournaments coming up, we’re building up and up for the big ones at the end of the year, and the more you finish up the leaderboard, the more confident you get.
“I’ve played all those tournaments before, I know the places, so I’ll be even more comfortable,” Otto said.