Getting into the world’s top 50 in golf is a big deal. The rewards for Jaco van Zyl now that he has reached that level – and should he stay there for the next little while – are considerable. The first perk, should he still be there in five weeks, would be a personally issued invitation from the chairman of the Masters to tee it up at Augusta National on April 7.
Of course, there is so much more than that for the player to savour, and not least is the knowledge that he truly belongs at a level of the game of which so many can only dream.
And the man he beat in the play-off of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship last week knows exactly what that means, too.
Dean Burmester reached 86th spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, having climbed 33 positions in two weeks.
While Burmester no doubt would have preferred to cap an extraordinary week last week – he won four of the seven awards available at the Sunshine Tour’s annual awards evening, he went inside the world’s top 100, and he came close to winning one of the most important professional tournaments on his home circuit – with a victory, he has much to be pleased with.
That he has reached such lofty heights on the world rankings, and that he doesn’t seem to be done yet seems extraordinary given that he only has eligibility on the Sunshine Tour.
Amongst his peers inside the top 100, Van Zyl, for instance, plays on other tours. In his case, it is the European Tour, where the depth of field makes climbing the world rankings list a little easier if you perform well.
And, make no mistake, Van Zyl has done that. Four times on the European Tour last year, he was inside the top three, once at the Joburg Open, then at the Trophee Hassan II, the Alstom Open de France and at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Burmester hasn’t had that depth of field against which he can test himself, except in the tournaments in South Africa co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and The European Tour. And he has done pretty well in those, most recently with top-10 finishes in the BMW South African Open Championship and the Tshwane Open.
But a cursory glance at his ranking history on the Official World Golf ranking website reveals that his best points hauls recently have come from Sunshine Tour events: His second place last week and in the previous week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am, for instance, and in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open, where his recent streak of brilliant form began last April.
Such has been Burmester’s consistency that his worst finish – besides just two missed cuts – was a share of 31st in January’s Joburg Open. And in 17 tournaments, no other finish was outside the top 20.
That he drives the ball a million miles, has an engaging personality, is loyal and is always up for a challenge certainly helps make him someone any tournament would want to have in their field.
Van Zyl has all those characteristics too – while he might not be in the same ballpark off the tee as Burmester, his gesture when giving his caddie a stand at Eye of Africa worth R1.9-million which he had just won last week was revealing –and the pair add something to the constantly evolving legend of South African golf.
With the quartet of young tyros Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, as well as their runners-up in the BMW South African Open Championship and Joburg Open, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Zander Lombard respectively, dominating golf talk in the first month of the year, Van Zyl and Burmester have quietly reminded us of just what riches this country has still to deliver on the world’s fairways.
That it happened on the same week as 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen returned to winning ways was probably no coincidence.