While all South African golfers who play overseas relish being back home, it feels extra-special this week for Jbe’ Kruger who tees it up in this week’s R700,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Sishen Golf and Country Club.
The 30-year-old who now plays out of Serengeti Golf Estate in Ekurhuleni took many of his formative competitive golf steps at the course where the 54-hole Sunshine Tour event gets underway on Thursday.
After starting to play when he was just five on the nine-hole Groblershoop course in the Northern Cape, which had no grass and oil and sand greens, his family moved to Kathu when he was 14. “In 2001 we moved to Kathu and I had a handicap of nine,” he says on his website. “Within a few months I became a scratch golfer and I could tell that the change to grass was for the better. In 2003 and 2004 I became the club champion.”
While he hasn’t played a Sunshine Tour event at Sishen since 2010, where he and Jean Hugo were bested by Jaco van Zyl by one stroke, he is looking forward to the week on a place that is familiar to him. “It almost feels like a holiday being here,” he said. “I know the course so well, and I know the greens. I can read them really well, and I like it that they have a bit of grain on them – it suits me.”
He’ll be up against some form players: Danie van Tonder, who finished fourth in 2012, the last time the Sunshine Tour was at Sishen, is one of them. He had three top-10s in August, including a share of second in the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge.
Another is Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya, who had his maiden Sunshine Tour victory in July’s Vodacom Origins of Golf event at the Wild Coast Sun, and then came close again at the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge at the end of August with a share of fourth.
But Kruger is determined to be no pushover. “I’ve been playing well for a year now,” he said. “It’s just the putts not dropping which is holding me back. So I’m hesitant to say that if I do well, it will be a turning point for me.”
There is no doubt a win on a course with so many childhood memories would be very sweet for him, though.