By Michael Vlismas
The Sunshine Tour will make history on National Women’s Day, with this week being the first time that the local men’s professional circuit has held a tournament on a golf course designed by a woman.
The Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament has been played at the Euphoria Golf Estate in the Waterberg region north of Pretoria this week, and finishes on National Women’s Day. The course was designed by legendary Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam.
Generally the country’s professional golfers are more used to playing golf courses designed by the likes of Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Ernie Els. But the severity of Sorenstam’s 7 040-metre layout has certainly caught a few of the men’s professionals by surprise.
“It’s a lot tougher than you’d expect from a woman designer,” said Desvonde Botes. “It’s actually quite a long, hard golf course.”
Ulrich van den Berg agreed that Sorenstam’s layout was more than a test for them this week. “She’s created a course here where you need to play really good golf to score well. It’s a trying course. It’s definitely been beating a couple of the boys up this week.”
And Tjaart van der Walt, a professional since 1996, also admitted that it’s tested his game in every respect. “I’ve used every club in my bag this week, which is always a good sign of a well-designed golf course. And I think in the summer, when the course is not as firm as it is now, it must be a monster to play. Sorenstam has done a great job here. She’s given us a challenge, no doubt about it.”
But Heinrich Bruiners has managed to charm his way around this layout. Bruiners had to qualify for this tournament and won that qualifier with a four-under-par 68. He then led the first round with another 68 and added a second round of 69 to see him leading the field on seven under par and chasing a maiden professional victory.
“I love this course. But the greens are tough and you need to really think about what you’re doing before you putt. But I’m very impressed with her design. The bunkers are set up perfectly in the landing areas, so you can’t just stand on the tee and say, ‘I’m going to bash one down there’. There’s a lot of strategy required from off the tee.”
It’s exactly what Sorenstam had in mind. “I designed the course the way I play the game, where you have to think about every shot,” Sorenstam said when she opened this course in November 2008.