He is the most recent Sunshine Tour professional to have won at Glendower Golf Club, and Ulrich van den Berg finds himself just four shots off the lead going into the weekend at the South African Open Championship.
Van den Berg won October’s BMG Classic at the course for his first victory in over three years, and it is the jewel – so far – in the crown of an incredibly consistent season that boasts 12 top-10 finishes in his 24 starts this year.
And, with rounds of 70 and 66 behind his name in the South African Open, he is nicely poised at eight-under-par to make a tilt at the lead and a title which would mean the world to him.
He sealed his second round with a tough eight-footer for par on the 18th after he had made seven birdies and just a single bogey: “I wanted that one,” he said. “I didn’t feel I hit that bad of a first putt from just off the green, but it came through the kikuyu a little bit quickly, and I was able to make that little one for par.”
That added to the confidence he took from his win just a month ago, although he’s too wily a customer to take more than one day at a time – even if he knows he can win on the course.
“I love the golf course,” he said. “Everyone knows that – I’ve sung its praises for many, many years. I honestly believe it’s in our top three or four in the country. It’s one of our true tests and if you have a look at the leaderboard, you will see some of the best golfers in the world on it, so it proves that it rewards good golf.”
He’s too modest to claim as his right a place amongst those golfers, however. “I had a taste of it once, and I let it slip,” he said, “so I’d just like to give myself another chance before it’s all over. I can play with the top guys if I bring my A-game along.”
Van den Berg played on the European Tour in 2008 having won his card at qualifying school at the end of 2007. Having been unable to play in more than 10 tournaments in his rookie season due to family reasons, he was granted a conditional card for 2009 on a medical exemption, but failed to win enough money to retain his playing status.
Ahead of the weekend, he’s philosophical. “I’m not worried about anything,” he said. “It’s just a round of golf. It’s not life or death any more. I’ll just have some fun and enjoy walking around this great course.”