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Limpopo Championship: What’s What

The Limpopo Championship made its debut on the Sunshine Tour schedule last year and it boasted a R1.5-million prize fund. The organisers promised to make the second edition bigger and better and that they have achieved.

In its second edition, the Limpopo Championship is co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour and boasts a R3.5-million prize fund. The much-bigger tournament will be played from 30 January to 02 February 2020, at Euphoria and Lifestyle Estate and Koro Creek in Modimolle, Limpopo.

The format:

72 holes of Stroke Play. All competitors will play one round each on the Euphoria and Koro Creek Course during round one and two. After 36 holes there will be a cut to the leading 60 professionals and those who tie on that score.

Rounds three and four will be played on the Euphoria course.

The field:

204 professionals.

Defending champion:

JC Ritchie is the defending champion. He is defending this week.

The course:

Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate is set in the beautiful Waterberg mountain range.

The 18-hole championship golf course is the first in Africa to be designed by Swedish great Annika Sorenstam and provides an exclusive experience. The Estate is also distinguished by a cableway which links the clubhouse to the mountain Estate and Ntshonalanga Restaurant, perfect for watching the sunset while enjoying breath-taking views.

It is home to numerous game reserves, the area is rich in cultural, historical, natural and geological attractions. The 760-hectare nature reserve is home to a wide variety of indigenous fauna and flora. The estate is a stone’s throw from Nylsvley. Though not as large as the Okavango, it is the largest natural floodplain in South Africa and is famous for its exceptional birdlife.

The course is situated two hours away from Johannesburg and one-and-a-half hours from Pretoria.

 

Koro Creek Bushveld Golf Estate is a par-72 championship golf course, measuring 6825m and a true challenge with the fairways narrowing as you enter onto the green.

The course was designed by the DDV-Design Group with construction and maintenance done by Wonder Gardens who was also involved in the development of Leopard Creek and The Links at Fancourt. A portion of the golf course extends into the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, offering the golfers the relaxing experience of golf combined with nature.

Form Player:

The only time JC Ritchie has missed the cut this season was back in September last year in the King’s Cup in eSwatini. He’d already won the Zanaco Masters five months prior in Lusaka. Like last year coming into this tournament, Ritchie is beaming confidence as he and his friend and playing partner Jaco Prinsloo, successfully defended their Gauteng Team Championship titles over the weekend.

He was already firing on all cylinders going into last week’s event, having come seventh at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship and sixth at the SA Open hosted by the City of Joburg.

Now, headed to a familiar hunting ground and on which he has tasted success in recent times, and at the back of a successful defence, Ritchie has no reason to feel like he can’t defend his Limpopo triumph, even as the field is much bigger and the quality much improved, with the Challenge Tour joining in.

He has won three of his four order of merit titles between the months of March and April, a signal that he can be quick off the mark in the way of victories, and will want to continue with that trend. The stage is bigger and the rewards even bigger this year, however, that’s not something Ritchie isn’t used to – shown by his SA Open performance just the other day – so a successful title-defence is very possible this week.

Sentimental pick:

Jaco Ahlers has won in Euphoria before and is in a scintillating form which recently earned him a spot at the 149th The Open later in the year. Leading the order of merit standings on account of the number of events he’s played this season – one must play a minimum of six events to be eligible to win the order of merit prize – and boasting two victories and six top 10 finishes, he knows he is in with a shout this week.

The bolter:

Stephen Ferreira has had his fair share of struggles this season, especially in the last few months. He last made the cut in October last year in the Sibaya Challenge, a reality he has worked hard to turn around. Despite those struggles, however, Ferreira remains a strong competitor and has shown glimpses of outright brilliance, as shown by his KCB Karen Masters performance, where he narrowly lost out to Toto Thimba Jnr in the end.

He is very capable of stringing together low rounds and on a day when his putter is obedient, a very low career-defining score is very possible, such as the 62 he signed for in the opening round of that showdown in Nairobi in July last year.

He has no issues confidence-wise and a solid ball-striker, Ferreira will want to combine these attributes and a few more to mount a challenge for only his maiden Sunshine Tour title. What better championship to claim your maiden title in than the Limpopo Championship?

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Prinsloo, Ritchie claim second successive Team Champs title

JC Ritchie and Jaco Prinsloo made history on Saturday when they claimed the 2020 Gauteng Team Championship hosted by Dainfern, becoming the first team to defend this title since its inception in 2018. They signed for a tournament total of 25-under-par 191 to claim a two-stroke victory over the team Jaco Ahlers and Vaughn Groenewald after rounds of 61, 68 and 62. Ritchie and Prinsloo came into the final round leading by a single stroke at 15-under-par. A bogey on the first hole marked a shaky start for the defending champions but what followed next was nothing short of spectacular. “We are very chuffed to have defended this title,” said Ritchie, “I think we were expecting a little bit of a charge from the guys who were coming behind us. But we played brilliantly together as a team after a tough struggle at the start. But we are happy we managed to turn on the fireworks and bring it home.” The bogey they made on the first hole was quickly forgotten as they made birdie on the next hole. Two pars later something clicked. Five consecutive birdies followed as they turned in 31 but that was not the end of it. A birdie on the 10th was quickly followed by an eagle on the 12th hole. Then birdies on the 17th and the 18th holes sealed the victory for Prinsloo and Ritchie. “After a good stretch of holes bringing back a bad start, that eagle really settled us down, giving us a nice cushion to play the last six holes with,” continued Ritchie. Prinsloo was equally ecstatic to become only the first team to successfully defend this title. “The conditions today were similar to yesterday’s because we started with the umbrellas out because it was raining,” remarked Prinsloo, “it was tough but I just took a back seat and watched JC play the golf course the way it should be played. We are really happy with this win.” The first round of this exciting tournament was a betterball format, the second round was foursomes while the final round was also a betterball.
Prinsloo, Ritchie in slender lead at Dainfern 2

Prinsloo, Ritchie in slender lead at Dainfern

Defending champions of the Gauteng Team Championship, JC Ritchie and Jaco Prinsloo carded a second-round four-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round on a total of 15-under for the week. After a slow start to their round, opening with a bogey and then making four straight pars, Ritchie and Prinsloo got going, birdieing the sixth and seventh holes to turn in 35. Another bogey on the 10th threatened to derail their round but they found joy again when they made birdies on the 12th and 14th holes. Two pars later and in the last two holes, they made further gains, finishing with two birdies. “We are happy with that 68 today,” said Ritchie, “because we struggled there at the start, bogeying the first hole and not birdieing the second. And, the rain didn’t make it easy either. It was tough to hold on to the club, tough to keep the ball in play. But we are happy to be leading at this stage.” While they refuse to entertain the idea of a possible title-defence just yet – and with the final round being a betterball format – both players are relishing the possibility of a win early on in the year. “Neither JC nor myself mentioned anything about defending the title,” said Prinsloo. “It would be nice to defend but we don’t want to put any pressure on ourselves. We are just here to win a golf tournament.” Right below them on 14-under-par and in a share of the second spot, the teams of Jake Roos and Christiaan Basson, Jaco Ahlers and Vaughn Groenewald, and overnight leaders Heinrich Bruiners and Andre Nel, lurk dangerously. Ahlers and Groenewald also signed for a 68, Roos and Basson carded a 69 which had an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys, while Bruiners and Nel struggled a bit, and ultimately signing for a one-under. Darren Fichardt and Jaco van Zyl are two shots off the pace on 13-under and with the final round being a betterball format, they have an opportunity to claim a victory here too. At 12-under-par and in a share of sixth are the teams of Lyle Rowe and Steve Surry as well as David McIntyre and Kyle Barker.
A 59 for Nel and Bruiners to get going at Gauteng Team Champs 2

A 59 for Nel and Bruiners to get going at Gauteng Team Champs

Heinrich Bruiners celebrated like he’d won the tournament already on day one of the Gauteng Team Championship, and he had every reason to, because he and his teammate, Andre Nel blitzed around the Dainfern Golf and Residential Estate in spectacular fashion, carding a bogey-free 13-under 59 to lead by two shots on Thursday. “I don’t think I celebrated like that when I won my first event,” said the member of the Gary Player Class, Bruiners. “I was so happy I could almost kiss Andre there.” Teeing off the 10th tee, Bruiners and Nel began working right away, making four consecutive birdies. A par on the 14th, their fifth hole of the day, was followed by another birdie before another pair of pars slowed them down a bit. The found joy again before they turned, making a birdie on the ninth to turn in 30. Coming home, they didn’t relent and after the par they picked up on their 10th hole, the first hole of the golf course, they made an eagle on the par-five second and a birdie on the next hole. Two pars later, two more birdies and another eagle went onto their scorecard as they went around the back nine in 29 for a total score of 13-under 59. “It was crazy,” said Bruiners of the eagles they made on the day. “We were hitting the ball well and, on the holes where we had chances for eagles, we were both quite close. He made one first and then I made mine too. We played like a proper team and we had fun.” Added Nel: “It was so fun playing with Heinie. When I was in trouble, he had my back and I did the same when he was in trouble. It was so much fun.” Defending champions, Jaco Prinsloo and JC Ritchie share the second spot with the team of Jake Roos and Christiaan Basson on 11-under-par. The first round of this tournament is a betterball format while the second round will be foursomes.
Gauteng Team Championship: What’s what 1

Gauteng Team Championship: What’s what

The Gauteng Team Championship returns to Dainfern Golf and Residential Estate for its third playing after it made its debut two years ago. The inaugural tournament was played at Steyn City and then it moved to its current home, Dainfern, the following year. It takes place from Thursday 23 January to Saturday 25 January. Format 54 holes of betterball and foursomes as follows: Thursday 23 January: 18 holes betterball Friday 24 January: 18 holes foursomes Saturday 25 January: The format of play is betterball and there will be a cut after 36 holes. 24 teams will make the cut. If more than 24 teams tie on the cut number, a count-out will be done to determine the qualifying teams, but all teams on the cut number will be paid. The field 96 professionals making up 48 teams. Defending champions JC Ritchie and Jaco Prinsloo – 27-under-par 189 The course The Dainfern Country Club in Johannesburg was founded in 1991 and is an 18-hole golf course with a par of 72. Gary Player designed the golf course and planted the fairways with Kikuyu and the greens with bentgrass. Form player Darren Fichardt comes into this event after a hard-fought playoff victory at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship against Matias Calderon after both players finished on 20-under par in regulation. While he missed the cut at the SA Open hosted by the City of Joburg a week prior, Fichardt’s resilience at Eye of Africa last week not only showed him as a player that can win but also as one with big-match temperament. He has teamed up with Jaco van Zyl this week, a veteran in his own right and a player whose form is also on the rise. Van Zyl came 28th at the SA Open and backed that result up with a 12th place finish last week in Eikenhof. An experienced pair seeking glory as a team, Fichardt and Van Zyl will be the team to look out for if their current form is anything to go by.   Sentimental pick Thriston Lawrence and Daniel van Tonder finished fourth and fifth, respectively, last week and because both players, individually, have looked threatening in recent times. Lawrence’s SA Open showing was impressive, carding scores of 67, 65, 70 but he was let down by a final-round 75 to finish in a share of 36th. Van Tonder missed the cut at the national open but due to his solid performances throughout the season, he finds himself battling it out for the Order of Merit with Jaco Ahlers. To put his season in context, Van Tonder has played 16 events and has missed the cut only three times, highlighting the great form he’s been enjoying up to this event. Both known to hit the ball a long way, and with Lawrence making birdies for fun this season – he has the most birdies this season, making 278 up to this point – this team might be a surprise pairing for some, but it might just prove to be a perfect match-up. Bolter Chris Cannon might have missed the cut in the last two events and failed to qualify for the two events which preceded those, but he has played consistent golf in the last two seasons and will fell that he is due a win soon. Already boasting three top 10s this season, Cannon comes to Dainfern with a solid enough partner in Philip Geerts. The Italian has two top 10 finishes this season, obtained at King’s Cup and Vodacom Origins of Golf in Sishen. His season has been stable, having missed the cut nine times in 17 starts. The fifth-place finish he got at King’s Cup is his highest finish this season and that he has the ability to shoot a low one at times is a plus in a team situation. Whether they will gel together as a team is yet to be determined but what is certain is that both Cannon and Geerts are strong competitors and both will feel a win is due to them. Could it be this week as a team?
Oosthuizen eyes up spot in world’s top 10

Oosthuizen eyes up spot in world’s top 10

Louis Oosthuizen is continuing a march back towards a spot in the world’s top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking after his fifth-place finish in last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. His runner-up finish in the South African Open Championship the week before started a rise from his year-opening position of 20th to his current 14th spot. He jumped four places with his performance in the European Tour’s first Rolex Series tournament of the 2020 season, an achievement aided by the presence of world number one Brooks Koepka, amongst others, which boosted the number of points awarded. He was one of four players inside the world’s top 20 who climbed in the rankings: Tiger Woods rose from seventh to sixth without lifting a club, while Justin Rose (ninth to eighth) and Matt Kuchar (24th to 20th) parlayed their runner-up and titleist finishes respectively in the SMBC Singapore Open into improvements on the rankings. Erik van Rooyen remains the only other South African inside the top 50, with his share pf 12th in Abu Dhabi pushing him up to 46th from 48th as he cemented his place this year amongst the world’s elite golfers. Significantly, Shaun Norris made a big push towards receiving a coveted invitation to the Masters as he turned an opening round of 64 and a closing round of 65 in Abu Dhabi into a share of sixth. His world ranking this week climbed to 54th, and, another good performance on the European Tour this week in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic could see him on the verge of a debut trip up Magnolia Lane. Branden Grace also continued his climb back up the rankings, with his share of 17th in Abu Dhabi pushing him up to 70th after he started the year in 127th. The big South African climber of the week was Darren Fichardt, newly-crowned champion of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship after his play-off victory over Jacques Kruyswijk. The veteran Fichardt, who endured a tough year on the European Tour in 2019, rose from 409th in the rankings to 254th. That is still only good enough to make him the 17th-best South African of the 20 local players who appear inside the world’s top 300. Justin Harding (81st) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout join Oosthuizen, Van Rooyen, Norris and Grace to make up the six South Africans inside the world’s top 100. Dylan Frittelli could use a good performance in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour to lift him inside that mark again from his current 107th spot.  
Ahlers, Van Tonder in race to Sid Brews Trophy

Ahlers, Van Tonder in race to Sid Brews Trophy

With five events left in the Sunshine Tour’s 2019-20 season, the race for the Sid Brews Trophy for the winner of the Order of Merit is starting to look increasingly like a straight fight between Jaco Ahlers and Daniel van Tonder. Van Tonder has been in this position before, surrendering the 2014 title to Thomas Aiken in the last tournament of that season, the South African Open Championship. Ahlers’ best finish came in the 2017-18 season when he finished in ninth spot, with Van Tonder just behind him in 12th. With this week’s Gauteng Team championship hosted by Dainfern not contributing massively for the Order of Merit, and three of the top five on the list not likely to fulfil their obligations to qualify for ranking – Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel – the Limpopo Championship, the Cape Town Open and the Dimension Data Pro-Am become important ahead of the Tour Championship on February 20. Ahlers has the lead at this stage – R1,745,470 to R1,697,080 – and, with the 2018 Dimension Data Pro-Am title as part of his experience, he should probably feel he has the inside track in the final straight of the title chase. Additionally, he has two titles to his credit this season as compared to the season-opener of the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open which Van Tonder took back at the end of last March. Ahlers’ titles came in the King’s Cup in Swaziland in September, and the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Selborne a month later. Van Tonder will look to the experience of his second Sunshine Tour victory – the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Euphoria in 2014 – to bolster his chances in the Limpopo Championship which takes place on the same course. Both the Limpopo Championship and the Cape Town Open – where Ahlers is a former champion – have prize-funds of R3.5-million, which makes them equally important in the quest for top spot. The Dimension Data Pro-Am has R6.3-million up for grabs (some of it, of course for the pro-am section of the tournament), which gives it great significance to both players. The season-ending Tour Championship has R1.5-million in prize money, and the battle could come down to which of the two does better in that. Of course, there are players other than Ahlers and Van Tonder in the hunt too. Thriston Lawrence and JC Ritchie, in particular, are within striking distance, and a winning performance from either of them in any of the tournaments will greatly enhance their chances – especially if the leaders somehow contrive to perform poorly.  
Playoff glory for Fichardt in Eye of Africa PGA Championship

Playoff glory for Fichardt in Eye of Africa PGA Championship

Darren Fichardt added his name to the rich history of South African golf when he won the prestigious Eye of Africa PGA Championship on Sunday, and on a day when the Sunshine Tour itself made history with its coverage of the country’s second-oldest professional golf tournament. Fichardt beat Chile’s Matias Calderon with a birdie on the third playoff hole after both finished regulation play tied for the lead on 20 under par at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate. “I have always wanted to win the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, and the way I won it was very special. To win in a playoff is always awesome, and then hitting a driver and five iron and making a good putt for birdie was very satisfying,” said Fichardt. Fichardt now owns a place on a trophy that includes some of the biggest names in South African golf. And the Sunshine Tour made its own bit of history as it live-streamed the final round for the first time, with even Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits declaring on social media he was watching the final round on his laptop while in the FNB Stadium watching the rugby action at Vodacom Super Hero Sunday. Fichardt went into the final round tied for the lead with Jacques Kruyswijk on 16 under, and Calderon four shots adrift of them. But Calderon came surging through the field with a 64, and Fichardt’s own 68 saw the title decided between these two. Kruyswijk took third place on 19 under par with a 69. The victory was a timely boost for Fichardt, who admits the tribulations of having to return to the European Tour Qualifying School last year after losing his card took it out of him. “I had a tough year last year and decided not to touch a club over December. I came out at the South African Open and was a bit rusty, and missed the cut by one. I was thinking I hope it’s not going to be one of those years again. So to win the week after is awesome. “It’s fantastic playing at home and having that support. It can get very lonely on tour and it’s great to hear people calling your name and supporting you.”
Kruyswijk, Fichardt have their eyes set on Eye of Africa PGA Championship title

Kruyswijk, Fichardt have their eyes set on Eye of Africa PGA Championship title

Jacques Kruyswijk is ready to take the battle-hardened lessons he learned during a tough year on the European Tour last year and make them count as he heads into Sunday’s final round of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship tied for the lead. Kruyswijk signed for a 64 at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate on Saturday to top the leaderboard alongside Darren Fichardt on 16 under par. The experienced Fichardt posted a third round of 65. They are both one stroke clear of Thriston Lawrence who signed for a 69 on Saturday. And further back, the leaderboard is still very tight with Daniel van Tonder on 14 under, and then two former champions in 2018 winner Matias Calderon and defending champion Louis de Jager both in a group on 12 under par. Jaco Ahlers is also at 12 under after a third-round 64. But Kruyswijk believes he has the mental toughness to weather any challenge that comes his way, and it’s based upon a tough 2019 on the European Tour where he lost his card but gained a world of experience. “Playing on the European Tour has taught me a lot. You play in front of a lot of people and on tough courses – it’s a lot of pressure and I feel like I’ve matured a lot. I went through a difficult time last year but mentally I feel it’s made me stronger,” he said. “This 64 felt like my old self. I had a lot of fun and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that. It just went my way. I felt really comfortable out there. My three-wood was working so well that I was hitting it past my driver,” he said of a round that started with two birdies and then finished with four birdies in his final six holes. “It was nice to finish strong and I’m excited for the final round. My caddie and I came up with a strategy at the beginning of the week where we said we’re going to take it three holes at a time and try and be under par for three holes. It’s worked well.” And he’s doing his best not to put any unnecessary pressure on himself for the final day of South Africa’s second-oldest professional golf tournament, and the chance to add his name to an illustrious list of past champions. “You can only do your best and prepare the same way you always do. You never know what’s coming in this game.” Fichardt will be aiming to do the same based on advice he was given by Mark McNulty early in his career. “When I just turned pro, Mark McNulty gave me some good advice and he said just stick to your game plan. Don’t deviate from that just because it’s a final round. I’m just going to do that,” he said of a round where he also finished strong with three birdies in his final four holes. “I started off a bit shaky and drove it in the bush on the first hole, but managed to make par. But I got it going nicely and then had a good finish. I’m in a good position for the weekend. I’m excited. It will be a good fight with Jacques for the title, but I’m excited.”
Lawrence leads into weekend of Eye of Africa PGA Championship

Lawrence leads into weekend of Eye of Africa PGA Championship

Thriston Lawrence heads into the weekend of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship with a two-stroke lead and full of confidence that a victory on the main summer schedule of the Sunshine Tour is within his reach. Lawrence signed for his second consecutive 66 on the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate course on Friday to top the leaderboard on 12 under par. He is two strokes clear of Estiaan Conradie, Bryce Easton and Hennie O’Kennedy, who signed for rounds of 65, 66 and 66 respectively. Lawrence made his Sunshine Tour breakthrough on the winter schedule of the tour last year when he won the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Stellenbosch Golf Club. But a win in the summer still eludes him, although he finished fourth in last year’s Eye of Africa PGA Championship and then again came close when he finished runner-up in the Tour Championship the same year. “My all-round game has been good over the past two days. I hit 17 greens in the second round. The first green I missed was on the last hole and it was a bit of a sloppy finish with that bogey. But I’m very happy and playing with a lot of confidence,” said Lawrence, who came close to a hole-in-one on the par-three fifth hole. “I hit a wedge to about a foot there. It was nice to get that momentum again with a birdie after the bogey on my 11th hole.” Currently lying in seventh place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, Lawrence is not planning to change a thing from the recipe that has worked for him all season. “I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’m just going to stick to my game plan and take it from there. You never know with this game. You don’t need to be too technical and think too much about it – just do what you do and give it your best.” As one of Lawrence’s nearest challengers, Conradie has also given himself a great opportunity to break through this summer. “I just kept it in play and kept my card bogey-free,” said Conradie, who finished strong with two birdies on holes 17 and 18.” And Easton was just as solid off the tee on a golf course that clearly rewards accuracy. “I’m driving it great and I didn’t miss a fairway in the second round, which on this golf course sets up opportunities. I’m definitely pleased with the way I’ve been hitting it off the tee. I could’ve made a few more birdies out there, but 10 under at the halfway mark is nothing to complain about,” he said.
Van Rooyen’s journey from the Sunshine Tour to Augusta National 1

Van Rooyen’s journey from the Sunshine Tour to Augusta National

In 2017, Erik van Rooyen won the Eye of Africa PGA Championship for the first victory of his professional career. Last week he opened his invitation to participate in this year’s Masters tournament as a world top 50 player. His is a journey that embodies the Sunshine Tour’s slogan of #Gr8nessBeginsHere. Van Rooyen’s breakthrough victory in South Africa’s second-oldest professional tournament, which is being played this week at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate, did indeed launch his career as he climbed the world rankings over the next few years. By the end of 2017, he’d secured his place on the European Tour and also finished second in the Joburg Open to book his spot in his first Major – the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie where Van Rooyen finished an impressive tied 17th. Van Rooyen’s 2018 European Tour year was a memorable one as he played his way to four top-10 finishes, thereby earning himself the Graduate of the Year award. He also qualified to play in the Nedbank Golf Challenge that year as well as the DP World Tour Championship. And then in 2019, he had two runners-up finishes before finally breaking through with a maiden European Tour title in the Scandinavian Invitation. He ended the year ranked within the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking, earning him a debut appearance at the Masters and a drive down Magnolia Lane this April. “The Eye of Africa PGA Championship was a great breakthrough for me. I’d been knocking on the door in South Africa a few times in some Vodacom Origins of Golf events, so to get that win against a good field was big for me,” says Van Rooyen. “The dream of playing on the European Tour and against the best in the world was what kept driving me.” That was always the dream, ever since he and his father sat down at a junior tournament at Fish River when Van Rooyen was 14 and agreed upon a professional career in golf. And his journey to greatness is an ongoing one, as it will be for those looking to make a similar breakthrough in this week’s Eye of Africa PGA Championship. “I feel like there are a lot of guys on the Sunshine Tour that are good enough to play on the European Tour or the PGA Tour but never get there. I want to keep getting better every year because then you will get there eventually.”
Fichardt leads but Mavundla making moves in Eye of Africa PGA Championship 1

Fichardt leads but Mavundla making moves in Eye of Africa PGA Championship

Darren Fichardt opened with a seven-under-par 65 to lead the first round of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, but for the second week in succession on the Sunshine Tour, a member of the Tour’s Gary Player Class is pushing for a victory just one shot behind him. Thanda Mavundla signed for a six-under-par 66 at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate on Thursday to place him in a group of players just one shot behind Fichardt. Last week, another Gary Player Class member in Toto Thimba Jnr. came through the first round of the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg just two shots off the lead, but was unable to maintain his challenge. The Gary Player Class is the Sunshine Tour’s squad of players who have been identified for assistance with their professional careers. Mavundla’s achievement was made even more special considering he wasn’t even going to play this week. “I stay in Durban so I wasn’t going to play this week because I don’t have a sponsor and it was going to cost a lot. Then a good friend of mine said he would assist me,” said Mavundla. “I’ve been working hard on my game and it felt good to shoot a low round like this. I didn’t miss any fairways which is key on this golf course. Your short game also needs to be sharp around here.” Fichardt was delighted with his opening 65 to lead South African golf’s second oldest professional tournament, after the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg. And he’s hoping for better fortunes in this event than what he’s enjoyed in the SA Open. “It was disappointing to miss the cut in the SA Open last week. That’s the third year in a row that I’ve missed the cut in that event, so to come out here and shoot seven under and be up there again was nice,” he said. “I shot five under in the pro-am earlier this week so my game is pretty solid. I felt I could’ve hit a few iron shots closer, but my game is solid, which it has been for some time now. It’s just a case of getting the job done.” Rookie professional Garrick Higgo and another rising star in Thriston Lawrence are also amongst the chasing pack just one shot behind Fichardt. Trevor Fisher Jnr., who lost in a playoff for this title with Louis de Jager last year, made another strong start with an opening round of five under 67.

Play Suspended

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