Toto inspired for Houghton title defence

The Sunshine Big Easy Tour, named in honour of Ernie Els, heads to Houghton Golf Club this week and defending champion Toto Thimba has been inspired by Els’ BMW International Open victory at the weekend.

“Watching Ernie win really inspired me, because he’s been through some struggles with his game and his win this weekend showed me that you have to believe in yourself and stay patient,” said Thimba.

“I came through the Ernie Els foundation and that’s had a big impact on my golf, being able to meet him and to see how he goes about it.”

Houghton Golf Club boats some of the toughest greens in South Africa, courtesy of a Jack Nicklaus slope-fest. Thimba played with pin-point accuracy at Houghton in 2012, where he carded rounds of 66 and 67 to clinch his maiden title.

“I don’t want to think about last year when I get onto the tee this week. I am confident with my game, I know that I have won at Houghton before, and I can’t wait to get out there,” he smiled.

Brimming with confidence and looking to dominate with the flat stick, Thimba is hoping to become the first player to successfully defend a Big Easy Tour title.

“This year I have set higher goals than ever before, and one of those goals is to successfully defend this week…but it won’t be easy,” he said.

The 27-year-old has two Big Easy victories to his name, the most recent coming at Centurion Country Club, where he reached 10-under-par after 36 holes.

His good form did not stop there, and the Mamelodi local went on to claim a share of fifth at the Lombard Insurance Classic at the end of May, moving into the top 90 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

Also in action is 2011 champion Callie Swart, who heads to Houghton fresh off a tied-third finish at Big Easy Wingate last week. The 47-year-old veteran has been in form recently and has the patience to weather out trouble at Houghton, which makes him a real threat this week.

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