Grace inspires Sunshine Tour pros

By Michael Vlismas

SA Open Championship: Round 4Branden Grace admits that it has all come a lot sooner than he ever expected. But for the multiple European Tour winner and world number 39, having a Sunshine Tour event played in his honour this week is entirely apt.

Grace’s spectacular career is the theme for this week’s R650 000 Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung tournament being played at the Langebaan Country Estate.

The tournament celebrates Grace as one of the “Young Guns” of South African golf who cut his teeth on this series, which is now in its 11th year as the biggest series of tournaments on the local circuit. Grace won a tournament on this series during that magical 2012 season of his, when he stunned the golf world with four victories on the European Tour.

This week’s 54-hole tournament tees off on Thursday with a field of 120 Sunshine Tour professionals all hoping to emulate Grace’s rise in world golf. And even Grace could never in his dreams have imagined he would at the age of 27 be a source of inspiration in the game.

Even at his home in Fancourt, Grace is a mentor for a group of young amateur golfers there.

“I’m still young and this has happened a lot sooner in my career than I would’ve thought it could. I never thought I’d be able to achieve what I have so soon in my career, and it’s been great,” Grace said.

Grace would now obviously like to join the country’s other “Young Guns” Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as a Major champion. And in just under two weeks time he’ll have another shot at it when he tees it up in his third US Open at Chambers Bay in Wisconsin. In his previous two US Open appearances Grace has finished tied 51st and missed the cut.

But on the PGA Tour this year, he’s missed the cut in only one of the seven tournaments he’s played. And he’s had a top finish of tied seventh in the RBC Heritage.

“Obviously 2012 was a great year but I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years and I think I’m a much better player for it. I’ve matured quite a bit. I really started playing nicely in America towards the end of 2014 and that was the first time in two-and-a-half years that I felt I could actually play there. I felt as though my game was in a space where I could push on.”

And as Grace looks to that next step in his career, his own progress will be the benchmark for the Sunshine Tour’s professionals this week.

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