6th February 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Three to watch at Eye of Africa
As the Eye of Africa PGA Championship tees off this Thursday at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Course, we rewind to that dramatic Sunday of February 12th last year when Erik van Rooyen defeated Makhetha Mazibuko and Dylan Frittelli in a sudden-death play-off after they all carded 16-under-par 272 in regulation.
The ChampionVan Rooyen hit his approach shot to inside a foot in the first hole of the three-way play-off to set himself up for birdie and victory to win his first tournament since turning professional in 2013. While it was Van Rooyen who emerged victorious, Mazibuko caught the eye as he became the first member of the Gary Player Class of 2017-18 to come that close to a win.
A share of second at the Joburg Open in December which was followed by the share of 20th he got at the BMW SA Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni just last month means Van Rooyen is in good shape to defend his title.
And now, having obtained his European Tour playing privileges via his top-five finish on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Oman, and coming to defend his title, Van Rooyen will surely be one of the favourites to win this week.
In a season in which he won his first Sunshine Tour event at the 2017 Zimbabwe Open, JC Ritchie’s game has been solid despite missing seven cuts along the way this season. His third-place finish at the BMW SA Open x was yet another testimony to the high level at which his game currently sits.
And, in spite of missing two cuts in his last five starts, Ritchie has being holding his own, especially in the events co-sanctioned with the European Tour. He missed the cut at the tri-sanctioned AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, a situation he would correct at the Joburg Open where he finished 27th and later at the Sunshine Tour’s flagship event where he got that third place.
The third-highest ranked amateur in the country before he renounced his amateur status just recently, 20-year old Kyle McClatchie is certainly announcing his arrival. He won his first professional event, albeit as an amateur, at the Big Easy Killarney tournament last May and earned himself an invitation to play at this season’s BMW SA Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, his second appearance at that event.
Teeing it up alongside international big players like his idol Charl Schwartzel, McClatchie proved he can compete at the highest level when it is required. After finishing that event as the highest-placed amateur, McClatchie, who plays out of Serengeti Golf and Widlife Estate, won the Freddie Tait trophy as the leading amateur at the second-oldest open championship in the world.
Now, he enters this event through another invitation and, judging by his domination of the amateur circuits, and by his effort at Glendower recently, McClatchie has proven he can cause an upset. And with his sights set firmly at next season’s qualifying school where he hopes to earn his playing card, he will be determined to make an impression at the Eye of Africa.