Thabang looking to change his Copperleaf history

Last year a drop at the 18th at The Els Club, Copperleaf was enough for Thabang Simon to let slip the 2011 Big Easy Tour Order of Merit. This year he wants it all.

“Last year was tough, even though my game felt very good at the time. I’m struggling a little off the tee, but if I can get my driver right this week then I’ve got a good chance of winning it,” he said.

The 37-year-old from Brakpan has taken eight career top-10s on the main tour. He finished tied second at the Tour Champship last year, which makes the next step fairly clear: he needs to win.

“It makes a difference having played for a while on tour. I’ve played a lot at Copperleaf; I even qualified for the Alfred Dunhill Championship at this course. I’m positive that if I can just get back to being myself out there then I can win this thing,” he said.

He’s showed a bit of form ahead of the Tour Championship and made his first cut in three months at Sishen Golf Club a fortnight ago, finishing in a share of 40th in the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament played there.

The Els Club is a different course to Sishen. For starters it’s long – 7360-metres to be exact – and amateurs are not allowed to play without the use of a golf cart. There are very few trees on the course and the wind can wreak havoc, especially when aiming at one of the several hidden pins spread out over the track.

“The course is long and you have to really get it up there if you want to give yourself a chance. I think getting a little bit of extra distance will mean a lot this week, so I plan to hit more fairways than I have been.

“I’m struggling on the Main Tour at this moment, and I really want to win this thing so that my confidence is high before the summer stretch,” he said.

Among the 30 top players there are two names that Simon will have on his mind – Jeff Inglis and Riekus Nortje.

Inglis currently leads the Order of Merit. He has been a touring professional for a decade and took Big Easy victories at Kempton Park and Maccauvlei Golf Clubs earlier this season. He’s also finished outside the money just once on the Big Easy Tour this year.

“It’s a huge thing to be playing in the Tour Champs,” said Inglis. “To make it to the top 30 by the end of the season is something quite special – it means you’ve played consistently good golf throughout the year. It’s also a huge honour to be playing, and there is a lot to play for.”

And on the other end of the spectrum is newcomer Nortje. The 21-year-old rookie sensation broke records throughout the year, becoming the first player to win two Big Easy tournaments as well as becoming the first back-to-back winner. That wasn’t enough for the Fancourt Foundation graduate, who won for a third time at Irene Country Club a month ago. He is the most decorated player in the Big Easy Tour’s two-year history, and is hunting his fourth win to seal-off a superb rookie season.

“It’s a big thing for me to have played my way into Tour Champs,” he said. “This gives me a great opportunity to break new ground and maybe take a fourth win. I’m sure everyone will go for it this week; it’s the perfect build-up to next year.”

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