James Kingston and Hennie Otto, undoubtedly two of the country’s favourite South African Open Championship winners, will join defending champion Henrik Stenson and two-time champion Retief Goosen in the 103rd edition of South Africa’s flagship event, earmarked for Glendower from November 21-24.
Every young boy who gets hooked on golf and becomes immersed in the grand history and traditions of the game, invariably dreams of one day winning his national open. In the case of the South African Open, it was no different for Kingston, who witnessed Gary Player win a bunch in the 1970s and Otto, who was 15 when he watched Ernie Els capture the first of his five SA Open titles as a young man.
And that got them dreaming of emulating their heroes.
Kingston realised that dream when he annexed the 2007 SA Open for his first European Tour victory. After 19 long and frustrating years of trying, of often coming close and being told he wasn't mentally tough enough, Kingston proved everyone wrong at the ripe old age of 42.
“You can’t put a price on what this means to me,” Kingston said after sinking the winning putt.
“This is the greatest day of my career. I’m doubly emotional right now, because to win this – my own national open against a world-class field and to follow in the footsteps of a man like Gary Player – is massive.”
Otto, too, was extremely emotional after winning the 101st edition in dramatic fashion.
Ekurhuleni’s own son looked to be cruising to victory with a three-shot lead and six holes to play in the 2011 edition. Then he bogeyed three of the next four holes to drop back to minus-13, equal to the score that Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger had signed for to post the clubhouse lead.
Otto had to finish par-par merely to tie, but the man they call the “Boksburg Bomber” reached for his driver at the 17th and hit a shot so good, it actually ran through the green. He skilfully chipped to about four feet from the cup and, kneeling as if praying, carefully lined up the putt before rolling it in for birdie.
He knew victory was in his grasp. After another big drive down 18, and a safety-first approach to the right side of the green away from the water, he two-putted from 40 feet for victory.
“To win the SA Open, to win your own national open, is very special,” said Otto. "You just have to look at the names on the trophy – Els, Goosen, Player, Locke – to know you’re in esteemed company.”
And Kingston and Otto will be in esteemed company for the 103rd edition of the South African Open at a course that has hosted the SA Open on three previous occasions with American Fred Wadsworth, South Africa’s own Clinton Whitelaw and the legendary Vijay Singh being the winners.
This current year’s line-up not only includes the 2012 champion Stenson, two-time US Open champion Goosen, Kingston and Otto, but also two-time Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Pablo Martin and no fewer than 29 other Sunshine Tour winners.
The 103rd edition promises to be a cracking tournament, full of emotion, because that’s what winning the South African Open does to the players.