7th August 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Sun Carnival City Sun Challenge: What’s what.
The third event in the five-tournament Sun International series, the Sun Carnival City Challenge, makes its way to Ebotse Golf Links this week where Jbe’ Kruger will be looking to defend his title.
His knowledge of the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate, the venue where the previous tournament was hosted, came to the fore and he claimed a single-stroke win over Neil Schietekat and JJ Senekal after a beautiful approach shot on the final hole landed a mere six feet from the flag.
The field is made up of 108 professionals who will be battling it out in this R800,000 tournament.
The defending champion:
Before this tournament, Jbe’ Kruger had never won a Sunshine Tour event in South Africa. Some of his victories came from the Zambia Open and the Zimbabwe Open but locally, he was yet to break his duck. He did so in style. At his home course. He went into the final round leading Titch Moore by one shot on nine-under following a 69 he produced in round two to support the 66 he signed for on day one. While it was not smooth sailing for Kruger, he was able to produce a 70 in the final round and that proved adequate to claim the much sought-after victory.
Ebotse Links is a Peter Matkovich Signature design golf course and is the only inland links golf course in the country. The 6,372-metre par-72 layout has seven of its holes on water and has been built to US PGA specifications to accommodate championship golf and offer a stern test to any player, whether amateur or seasoned professional.
The Rynfield Dam forms part of a unique driving range where balls land in the lake and special floating balls are used for this purpose. It has a number of floating greens for targets and floating golf balls for reuse. Ranked as the 38th best golf course in the country by Golf Digest SA, Ebotse has hosted numerous tournaments, including three Sunshine Tour events, one Nomads National (the biggest amateur event in the world), Senior Interprovincial and League Finals.
The form player:
Since his breakthrough victory at the KCB Karen Masters, Michael Palmer seems rejuvenated and in good form. At 34-under-par 470 in his last six rounds, and with no score over par in all that time, Palmer seems to have found something in Kenya. Before that victory at Karen Country Club, he had missed every cut since the beginning of the year.
While he couldn’t make it back-to-back wins last week, he did enough to push eventual winner Andre De Decker to the limit in eSwatini. Despite giving it his best, Palmer fell on the fifth playoff hole in eZulwini to hand De Decker his maiden victory. From Palmer’s display over the last two weeks, it is almost clear that he only needed that victory to resuscitate what looked like a dull season.
The sentimental pick:
Purely based on the fact that he won last week and that he had come close to a win in the season-opening Zanaco Masters, Andre De Decker deserves a mention here. He showed his intention early in the season when he pushed Jaco Ahlers (who had just won the Dimension Data Pro-Am) and JJ Senekal to the playoff in Lusaka. There, he fell at the hands of Senekal who emerged victorious after some scintillating golf. A solid 31st position at Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open was followed by a missed cut in Kitwe before finishing 28th and sixth at Investec Royal Swazi Open and Lombard Insurance Classic, respectively. Those particular finishes must have been massive for De Decker because the next time he would return to eSwatini, it would be for a victory.
With that, he became the second first-time winner this season after, ironically, Michael Palmer.
Member of the Gary Player Class, Keenan Davidse earns his spot here due to his consistent game up to this point. While many will feel he let a good opportunity for a win go by in eSwatini when he was co-leading by a single shot going into the final round of the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge only to fall behind and finish fifth, for some, a feeling that a win for Davidse is much closer, is undeniable. Boasting two top-10 finishes already and with a knack for producing an occasional spectacular, Davidse, many will feel, has everything it takes to win.
“It was because I stayed patient. I’ve been out here on tour for a while, so I know what I need to do,” he said last week of his second-round display at Royal Swazi Golf and Spa.
While he eventually finished two shots behind the lead in eSwatini, Davidse is experienced enough not to lose his head. Along with Toto Thimba Jr, Franklin Manchest and Heinrich Bruiners, Davidse has been among the best performers from the Gary Player Class and will see this week’s Sun Carnival City Challenge as his opportunity to finally cross the line.