SA’s Euro stars back home for Telkom PGA Pro-Am

Both George Coetzee and Jaco van Zyl make their return to the Sunshine Tour this week following some outstanding performances on the European Tour.

Both golfers have come home to compete in the 54-hole Telkom PGA Pro-Am at Centurion Country Club, which tees off on Wednesday.

And they do so as vastly more experienced players, with both having taken their careers to the next level on the European Tour this year.

Van Zyl is the defending champion in the R500,000 event over the 6,700-metre course.

While Coetzee admits “I’m not defending my title, but just hoping to steal it from Jaco”, he will pose a big threat this week.

The Pretoria golfer has been a revelation on the European Tour this season, most notably with his finish of 15th in the Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

There was also his third-place finish in the Scottish Open the week before, third in the BMW International Open, fourth in the Trophee Hassan II and second in the Johnnie Walker Championship to celebrate.

“I can’t explain it really,” he says of his performances. “I think I’ve become more patient on the golf course. I’m letting things happen rather than trying to force it. I’m also enjoying my golf a lot more.”

Van Zyl heads to Centurion on the back of a third-place finish in the recent Omega European Masters. And the other highlights of his time on the European Tour this year include second in the Trophee Hassan II, 11th in both the Johnnie Walker Championship and Irish Open, and 13th in the Nordea Masters.

His victory in the Telkom PGA Pro-Am last year marked the first time he had successfully defended a title, giving him two wins in this tournament in 2009 and 2010, as well as two second-place finishes in 2007 and 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” says Van Zyl. “I’m back in my happy place – back at home in my own bed and playing with the guys I know.”

As a man who loves his home, it was a big decision for Van Zyl to venture onto the European Tour with more intent this year. But it’s one he clearly doesn’t regret.

“It was time for me to set new goals and I felt like I was ready to play in Europe, and that I was good enough to compete there.”

In addition, Coetzee’s form this year has also caught the eye of Chubby Chandler, who manages Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, and who now has drawn Coetzee into his ISM fold.

Michael Vlismas

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