He made history of his own when he won the national open championship back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, and Trevor Immelman has returned to South Africa to play the 2016 BMW South African Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni from January 7 next year.
He became the first player since Gary Player to successfully defend a South African Open championship title when he took the crown at his home course in Somerset West, Erinvale, for the second successive year. The 2008 Masters champion was back at the scene of that triumph on Tuesday, taking a family vacation and preparing to play in the second-oldest open championship in golf for the first time since 2008, where he finished in a share of 10th.
“It is great to back home where it all started,” said Immelman. “I’m excited to be playing the SA Open after all these years, and it’s just great that BMW and the City of Ekurhuleni are involved in helping build the tournament back to the position within world golf where it should be.”
He will be returning to Glendower Golf Club where he played his first South African Open in 1997. “I qualified for that one at Modderfontein Golf Club while I was a 17-year-old amateur,” he recalled. “I was so excited to be able to play against some of the best players in the world.”
That 1997 tournament was won by Vijay Singh, and Immelman went on to turn professional in 1999 and he won five times on the Sunshine Tour – including those two SA Open titles and the 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge, in which he bested Justin Rose by one stroke.
“The SA Open and the Nedbank Golf Challenge were the two tournaments we all grew up watching, and we were able to see world-class players in action,” he said. “So I think it’s wonderful that Ernie Els has become involved as player-host and that will contribute to bringing top names to the event.”
In the year following that Sun City victory, he grabbed his opportunity to realise a dream he had had since childhood, and, despite a double-bogey on the 16th in the final round at Augusta National, he went on to win the Masters by three strokes from Tiger Woods.
“That opened up a whole world for me and for my family,” said Immelman, “and although things haven’t gone as well as they could have for me recently, playing in South Africa again at the beginning of the new year is a great way for me to start my preparation for playing the Masters again this year.”
Immelman will also play the Joburg Open in January, before going to the Middle East to play on the Desert Swing of The European Tour.
“It’s wonderful to be playing back on the Sunshine Tour, which is where it all began for me and where so many other young players are getting opportunities,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”