3rd April 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Ahlers relishing Lusaka challenge in Zanaco Masters
He started the Sunshine Tour’s 2019-20 season with a share of sixth last week, and Jaco Ahlers is looking to add to his seven career titles with a victory in the Zanaco Masters which tees off on Thursday at the Lusaka Golf Club.
He lost in a four-man play-off in last year’s event to eventual winner JJ Senekal, and that was the first of 10 top-10 finishes for his season that couldn’t quite give him his first win since February 2018 when he won the Dimension Data Pro-am
“My game’s in pretty good shape,” he said. “I’ve been playing nicely for the last few weeks. I just can’t get over that winning hurdle. It’s getting close. I’ve been working hard at it for the last few months and it’s starting to show good signs and I like the way it’s trending. I hope I can do something this week.
“It’s always a nice week. We stay with such good people and they make it a special week. Last year, losing in a play-off, you always want to go one better, so I’m looking forward to it.”
His sixth-place last week came on the tough Nkana Golf Club where the rough was really thick and punitive, but, with a win in Zambia under his belt already – the 2016 KCM Zambia Open at Nchanga Golf Club – Ahlers is fond of the courses in Zambia and looking forward to his outing in Lusaka.
“I do like the course,” he said. “I like the layouts in Africa, I must say – the old colonial style. This one is very good. It’s tree-lined, it’s a parkland course, it’s not a massive property where you have to walk long distances between holes. It’s a nice blend – dog-leg left, dog-leg right, short holes, long holes. I think it’s a great golf course.”
There has been a change to the course since last year’s tournament. It was played as a par-72 layout last year, with the 13th a par-four instead of its usual par-five for members. The 472-metre hole duly bared its teeth and delivered 159 bogeys, 52 doubles, six triples and a quadruple to play at an average of 4.61. Ahlers made a birdie in rounf one, two bogeys in rounds two and three, and parred it in the final round.
“I didn’t know it had changed,” said Ahlers ahead of his tee-off time in Wednesday’s pro-am. “At the end of the day it’s about the score, so it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to shoot the lowest score.
“It’s designed as a par-five, so it’s a better way to play it. It was mentally disruptive if you made bogey there last year. Thing is it’s a double-tiered green and difficult to hit if the pin is at the top and you’re coming in with a six- or seven-iron. If it’s a par-four, you end up making more bogeys than feels right.”
He’ll be acutely aware that he’ll need to do better than simply feel right this week, with last week’s winner Daniel van Tonder in the field, together with defending champion Senekal with whom he shared sixth at Nkana.