Big Easy Tour glory beckons top five

The Sunshine Big Easy Tour Championship offers more than R40,000 to its winner and makes the Order of Merit race an open book, which will be written by the man who seizes the day at The Els Club Copperleaf (formerly Gardener Ross) come Wednesday.

Presented by Stonehage, the R250,000 event will play out much like the PGA Tour Championship, because every player in the 30-man field has a shot at winning the Order of Merit race with a victory in the final event of the series.

The tour, named after three-time major winner Ernie Els in recognition of his continued commitment to the development of the game in South Africa, ran through 10 events ahead of the Tour Championship with players contesting R100,000 purses over 36 holes.

Players who received their cards at the Sunshine Tour 2011 Qualifying School played in Bloemfontein last year, and the top 30 at the Vusi Ngubeni Strokeplay played in Johannesburg in January were eligible to play on the tour, as were those who finished from 71st to 150th on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

The top five players on the Big Easy Tour Order of Merit who go into the 54-hole season finale on Wednesday will be Dean Burmester, Ockie Strydom, Divan Gerber, Thabang Simon and Lyle Rowe.

Consistency has rewarded Burmester and Strydom, who hold first and second spot on the Order of Merit thanks to four top-10 finishes each. Neither has won an event in the series and both will surely look for a crescendo finish to their season.

Gerber is next in line, and has pieced together valuable earnings by attending every event in the series this year, but it was his win at Maccauvlei Golf Club that put him into contention with the leaders.

Simon won at ERPM Golf Club after making birdie on the 18th in a four-way playoff. The result kept him atop the Order of Merit for two weeks, but he has subsequently slipped down and will aim for a return to the top.

Rowe, who recently enjoyed a second-place finish at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final, took a maiden victory at Benoni Country Club and declared himself an Order of Merit contender after taking the winner’s share at the R100,000 event.

The top 30 on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour are all in with a shout for Order of Merit top honours and their time to shine starts on Wednesday.

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