It was cold, windy and wet the last time the Sunshine Tour went to Langebaan Country Estate on the Cape’s West Coast, but it didn’t deter Jean Hugo, who eased to a runaway seven-stroke win over Merrick Bremner there.
This week, the forecast is that the rain and wind will clear by the time the professionals tee off on Thursday in the new-look Vodacom Origins of Golf event presented by Samsung there, but the weather systems move in and out so rapidly when winter strikes in that part of the world, making it entirely possible that things will be much the same.
Except, of course, that the format has changed: There is a two-day pre-tournament pro-am, after which the professional field size has increased from the previous 72 players to 120, and they will compete over 54 holes for a prize fund which has increased to R650,000.
Not that any of that will make a blind bit of difference to Hugo, who, as he showed in the last Langebaan tournament, is capable of putting his head down and obliterating the opposition. He carded a second-round nine-under-par 63 to slam the door early on his pursuers, and, even though Bremner matched his final round of five-under 67, the deal was done and dusted as he coasted to his 14th Sunshine Tour victory.
He has subsequently added a 15th title to that incredible list that stretches all the way back to the 1999 Zimbabwe Open in his rookie year.
Eight of those victories have come in the Western Cape, probably because he grew up playing his golf in the area. And although he now lives in Centurion, the way to deal with wintery conditions the coastal area is clearly ingrained in his golfing DNA.
And besides the slew of rookies from January’s Sunshine Tour Qualifying School who will be getting into their first tournament without having to go through the agonies of a pre-qualifier, Hugo will be facing challenges from at least two experienced players who will be looking to build on starts which have set them up nicely for the year.
One is Wallie Coetsee, who’s second place in the Joburg Open has rejuvenated his career, and the other is Vaughn Groenewald, who’s victory in the Zambia Sugar Open was his first since 2006.
Both have moved from up-country down to coastal homes, and they have started becoming more proficient in those conditions – but if Hugo gets in the mood, they may just be playing for second.