By Michael Vlismas
South Africa’s most recent duo of Major winners – Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel – will join a strong field of Sunshine Tour and European Tour professionals in the €1,500,000 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek from 26-29 November.
The winners of the Open and Masters respectively head the field on the 15th anniversary of one of South African golf’s flagship tournaments.
Schwartzel heads back to Leopard Creek as the most successful player in the history of the tournament, having won it three times in 2004, 2012 and 2013 and having finished runner-up on four occasions.
“I’ve had good success at Leopard Creek in the past and I love going back there,” said the 2011 Masters champion. “It’s definitely one of my favourite courses that we play in the year, if not the favourite. For some reason Leopard Creek always seems to spark something special in my game.”
South Africa’s Branden Grace, who came close to joining his compatriots when he had two near misses in the Majors this year, will also return to defend his title.
With Grace’s victory at Leopard Creek in 2014 he become the first player to have won both the Alfred Dunhill Championship and its sister championship, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Of the three big-name South Africans, only Oosthuizen has yet to claim a victory in this tournament. He finished second in 2005 and 2014.
“I feel like Leopard Creek owes me a bit,” said Oosthuizen. “Leopard Creek is definitely my favourite golf course in South Africa. The place is so special, just being out in the wildlife.”
The Alfred Dunhill Championship teed off its illustrious history at Houghton Golf Club in 1996 and has always captured the attention of some of the biggest stars in the game, including Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, John Daly, Trevor Immelman and Darren Clarke.
The Championship has helped to launch the careers of three of golf’s brightest young stars and Major winners. Scott won his first professional title in the 2001 Alfred Dunhill Championship. Rose’s first victory as a professional came in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2002. And Schwartzel won his first professional title in the 2004 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
And it has played a key role in global golf and the development of the European Tour. This was the first tournament the European Tour ever co-sanctioned, and in partnership with the Sunshine Tour.
As part of a wider commitment to the game of golf, both the Alfred Dunhill Championship and Alfred Dunhill Links Championship contribute significantly to golf development in South Africa by donating tournament proceeds to the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB).
The SAGDB, the main arm of golf development in South Africa, currently has 2 300 children in its programmes and 70 coaches nationwide. The organisation is active in 12 South African provinces, and will soon be in all 14.