Ulrich van den Berg has always loved Glendower Golf Club, and now that he’s a member, he brings even more ammunition into the defence of his BMG Classic title when the tournament tees off on Friday.
Van den Berg won by five strokes in the 2013 tournament from Titch Moore and Hennie Otto after closing in a fine five-under-par 67 while Otto slumped to a one-over-par 73 and Moore carded two-under-par 70.
But it was his brilliant opening seven-under-par 65 which set him up last year: He started slowly with two birdies on the front nine, but as he settled down on the course he loves so much, he came roaring home in five-under 31 with birdies on 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18.
“It’s my favourite course in Johannesburg,” he said. “I just love the course and I’ve made that known to everyone. I’ve always loved playing this course. So when you have a good feeling about a course – I have that feeling with Humewood, I have it with Sun City, and I had some of my greatest success on those – you tend to play a lot better.”
He bogeyed the 17th in the final round, but his lead was beyond reach at that point. “I didn’t feel as if the win last year was comprehensive,” he said. “Hennie had a three- or four-shot lead after eight holes in the final round and then he made a double on 10 and bogeys on 12 and 17 and it swung my way.
“This course can do that and you’ve just got to keep plugging away. There are a lot of birdies to be made, but a lot of bogeys and double-bogeys out there if you don’t play well.”
Van den Berg will want to take his love of the course and add it to the superlative form he’s shown this season. He’s had 10 top-10 finishes, and now that he’s on a layout he loves, he may be able to turn that consistency into the victory that so narrowly eluded him when he lost the Telkom Business PGA Championship to Moore in a play-off in April.
“It’s funny how golf works,” he said. “I’ve been freewheeling most of the year. My swing’s felt really good and, in the cold weather in Scotland at the Dunhill Links, I started to struggle with my swing, so it’s a little bit of a fight again.”
If there is a Sunshine Tour professional who relishes that kind of fight, it’s Van den Berg. “You never know. Sometimes you expect and you don’t get, and when you don’t expect, you get what you most want,” he said.