BELA-BELA (Limpopo) – It’s a week on the Sunshine Tour when the drive to the golf course takes you past a herd of wildebeest and antelope. A week when professional Kyle Barker rides a mountain bike on the dirt roads to the Zebula Country Club clubhouse. A week when some afternoon fishing or game viewing is always a possibility. And a week when the winner of the SDC Open will most likely be handed his trophy in a presentation featuring the local elephants.
The second edition of this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour event tees off in the Limpopo bushveld on Thursday, and in an environment that seems to suit a number of the South African professionals.
Pieter Moolman had a strong run in Limpopo last year when he finished 12th in the SDC Open and then seventh in the Limpopo Championship at the nearby Euphoria Golf Club. After that he won his maiden Sunshine Tour title in the Fortress Invitational last year.
The SDC Open is the third of four tournaments co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, and Moolman has made a strong push on this swing. He returns to Limpopo having moved into the top 10 on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca rankings thanks to finishes of 14th in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and ninth in the Dimension Data Pro-Am over the past two weeks.
“I approach every tournament with the same mindset, but I seem to enjoy this kind of layout. I think it’s because you have to hit it in the right spot and that helps me focus,” said Moolman.
“I prefer this course when it’s a bit dry, and that will be different this year with all the rain they’ve had. It means you’ll have to hit the fairways because you don’t know what you’ll be getting into in the rough. But I’ve played well the last few weeks and am managing my bad shots better. The game is more about misses than good shots, and if you miss it in the right spot you have a much better chance of making par. It’s about managing your game when you’re not playing well, and I feel like I’ve been doing that well.”
Brandon Stone is also well-placed in fifth on the Challenge Tour rankings following top-seven finishes in the last two tournaments. He is coming back to a Limpopo province where he’s won before in his professional career.
Zimbabwe’s Benjamin Follett-Smith, winner of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open, and South African’s Martin Vorster, who finished fourth in Cape Town, fill out a strong Sunshine Tour representation in first and eighth on the Challenge Tour rankings respectively going into this week’s tournament. And Ruan Conradie, who has struggled of late, will draw on his runner-up finish in this event last year. – Michael Vlismas