Rookie Claassen seeking honours at historic Kimberley

Rookie JG Claassen will be focusing on more than the rich tradition of Kimberley Golf Club as he prepares to play this week’s Northern Cape Classic on the course which opened in 1890.

The 20-year-old is the only rookie to have won on the Sunshine Tour this year with his victory in the MTC Namibia PGA Championship in February helping him to second position in the race for the Rookie of the Year title.

It was only the second cut he had made in his fledgling professional career, and he has made only two more subsequently, but with the Rookie of the Year race leader Allan Versfeld out of the Kimberley field while preparing to play in the European Tour’s Qualifying School next week, he has a chance of closing the gap on him.

Versfeld has R430,451 and Claassen R219,499, but a second victory for Claassen would give him the winner’s share of the R600,000 purse the 54-hole tournament carries.

That R95,100 would go a long way to erasing the R211,000 difference between the two, and it would be significant for a man who was a decorated amateur to do well at the home of the Freddie Tait Golf Museum.

Tait is the man after whom the trophy for the leading amateur in the SA Open Championship is named, and Claassen will have to contend with the man who won it at Durban Country Club last year, Dean O’Riley.

O’Riley is third in the Rookie of the Year race on R167,719, so a victory for him would lift him ahead of Claassen.

The 22-year-old has made nine cuts on the Sunshine Tour this year, and, although he has yet to win, his third place in the Nashua Golf Challenge behind champion Adilson Da Silva showed he is ready for that maiden victory.

Besides the rookies, there are other players who will view the return of the Sunshine Tour to Kimberley with some nostalgia.

Chief among them will be Des Terblanche, who, as a young club member in 1983, won the World Junior Championships.

But the majority of the field will not have memories of the course like Terblanche does, and the new stop on the Sunshine Tour provides them with an opportunity to get their games in gear ahead of the rich summer tournaments which are now just a matter of weeks away.

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