Two majors in 2013. Two winners who are graduates of the Sunshine Tour. Justin Rose’s victory in the US Open at the weekend confirmed the truth of the Sunshine Tour’s slogan, “It begins here”.
Rose might have opened eyes with his performance as a young amateur in the 1998 Open Championship when he finished fourth, but he got his maiden professional win as a 21-year-old in 2002 in the Dunhill Championship at Houghton Golf Club when he beat Retief Goosen, Mark Foster and Martin Maritz by two strokes.
That was the second year in a row he had done well in the tournament, and in the previous year, he had finished runner-up to Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion who was then a 20-year-old.
Scott’s playing career took off in 2001, his first full year as a professional golfer, and the Alfred Dunhill Championship was his very first professional title. He beat Rose by one and he had three other top-three finishes throughout the season and went on to finish 13th in the European Tour Order of Merit in his first season.
Rose’s early struggles are well documented. He missed the cut in his first 21 consecutive events. He earned his first European Tour card in 1999 when he finished fourth at the qualifying school. The following season he failed to retain his card, and had to revisit the qualifying school, where he finished ninth.
Despite his early problems, Rose’s career soon began to take off and he became established on the European Tour. In 2001 he opened the season with consecutive second place finishes in the country of his birth, South Africa. He went on to finish the year in the top 40 on the European Tour Order of Merit.
And then came the win in the Dunhill Championship – a victory which also saw the likes of Ernie Els, Mark McNulty and Carl Petterson finish behind him. Also in the field – finishing in a share of fifth, three strokes behind him – was the man who will certainly be heavily reliant on his services next year, European 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
Rose followed his debut title swiftly with his second win two weeks later when he won the Sunshine Tour’s Nashua Masters at the Wild Coast Sun, beating Titch Moore by one shot.
Rose is the fourth winner of the Alfred Dunhill-sponsored event in South Africa to have gone on to win a major: Scott, Els and Charl Schwartzel are the others who reached greater heights after winning the tournament supported by the longest-standing sponsor on the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.
“It must be something in the water,” said Sunshine Tour chairman Johann Rupert.