Coetzee dials another winner with WGC spot

When George Coetzee won last year’s Telkom PGA Championship, he knew it was a big victory. But this week, he knows exactly how big a win that was. A year later, Coetzee is preparing to tee it up in next week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, and faces an opening match against world number one Luke Donald.

The withdrawal of Britain’s Paul Casey opened the door for Coetzee to take his place in the exclusive 64-man field as the next available player on the world rankings. And if there are no further changes to the draw, Coetzee will face a first-round match against Donald, the defending champion.

All of which means he will obviously not be defending his title in next week’s Telkom PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg.

“I would have liked to defend the title,” said Coetzee, “but I have to take the opportunity which has presented itself.

“The win last year boosted my confidence in a way that is really difficult to explain, and it certainly has put me on the road to the success I’m enjoying now,” he added.

And the organisers are perfectly fine with that.

“We’re delighted for George. Once again, this shows how a victory in the Telkom PGA Championship has the potential to change a South African golfer’s career and serve as the stepping stone to greater things,” said Braam Wessels, Telkom’s sponsorship manager.

Following his win last year, Coetzee went on to enjoy a breakout season on the European Tour and steadily climbed the world rankings to his current high of 66.

Speaking on the prospect of a match with Donald, Coetzee couldn’t disguise his enthusiasm. “I definitely want to take on the world number one in a one-on-one situation,” he said. “That’s every player’s dream.”

Coetzee is another in a long line of former Telkom PGA Championship winners to have used their victories in this event as a spark for further greatness.

Most recently, Louis Oosthuizen won the title back-to-back in 2007 and 2008 on his way to major championship glory in the 2010 Open at St Andrews.

The Telkom PGA Championship also played a key role in Charl Schwartzel’s Sunshine Tour Order of Merit victory in 2007, which the future Masters champion celebrated on the 18th green at Country Club Johannesburg.

And in 2009, Jaco van Zyl won the Telkom PGA Championship. He’s since taken his place on the European Tour and also enjoyed a watershed 2011 season on the international stage.

“Throughout the championship’s history, it has played a key role in the career’s of some of our greatest golfers, from Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Harold Henning, David Frost and Ernie Els, to our young stars of today,” said Wessels.

“It would have been very special to have George defend his title. But his absence opens the door for another young South African to make his mark in this championship, and then on the global stage.”

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