Des plays in his 25th SA Open

You would have to go back to 1986 to find a South African Open Championship without the name of Des Terblanche in the list of competitors.

Except, of course, 2008 when health issues forced the big man out.

But it was touch and go this year, as dwindling status on the Sunshine Tour forced the 47-year-old veteran of seven titles in South Africa to play in the pre-qualifying rounds on the Tuesday before the SA Open got underway on Thursday at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.

And pre-qualifying for South Africa’s national open was the most unenviable of tasks this year. Nearly 300 hopefuls were spread across three different golf courses – Kempton Park Country Club, Glendower and Benoni Country Club – in search of just 18 qualifying spots.

Terblanche was drawn to play at Glendower, and his 69 ensured that he clinched the last of six available places there.

Originally, there were only 16 spots up for grabs, and, according to Sunshine Tour tournament director Gary Todd, the allocation of the number of spots for each course proved to be challenging.

“Initially we thought that there were only going to be 16 guys who could qualify, so that meant two courses would get five spots and one would get six. We decided that the pre-q with the highest ranked golfer would get the six spots, and that happened to be Glendower,” he explained.

This decision was made before the pre-qualification rounds got underway, so it seemed as though the players at Glendower had enjoyed the rub of the green. However, two of the European entrants withdrew, and with no European golfers on standby, two more positions opened up.

The big man from Kathu survived the extraordinary pressures of the pre-qualification to ensure that he would participate in his 25th South African Open this week, and it’s an achievement that adds to an impressive career.

Terblanche finished inside the top 50 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit for 15 consecutive seasons until poor health blighted his 2008 campaign. He boasts 16 wins as a professional, and has amassed career prize money approaching R3.5-million.

And with more than 330 Sunshine Tour events under his belt, it seemed only fitting that South Africa’s showpiece got underway with the likeable veteran in the mix – even though he shot an eight-over-par 80.

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