The 110th playing of the South African Open at the Gary Player Country Club this week represents an incredible opportunity for the entire field, and none more so than for some of the Sunshine Tour’s golfers who see a victory this week as a career dream for them.
“This ranks very highly for me in terms of tournaments I want to win,” says Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who is looking for back-to-back victories following his triumph in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments in world golf, and the second oldest national Open in golf. For any South African golfer it’s a dream to win their national Open. I’ve come close a couple of times and would love to pull it through this week.”
“It’s a special week – no doubt about it,” adds young Sunshine Tour professional Dylan Naidoo. “The SA Open is very important for all of us on the Sunshine Tour. This is a tournament that everyone marks on the schedule. I mean, you have somebody like Dylan Frittelli who’s just played in The Masters coming back to play here. All the top Sunshine Tour professionals support the South African Open.”
As a winner on the Sunshine Tour already in last year’s KCB Karen Masters, Toto Thimba Jnr. views the SA Open as the next step in his career: “For me to win the SA Open would be huge. Every South African golfer wants to win this one. I’m very excited and pleased to be here competing this week.”
There will also be eight GolfRSA amateurs in the field – South African number one Casey Jarvis as well as Kyle de Beer, Yurav Premlall, Sam Simpson, Christo Lamprecht, Christiaan Maas, Jordan Duminy and Massimo Mbetse – all chasing opportunities of their own to further their careers as they look to add their names to the Freddie Tait trophy as the leading amateur at the end of the week.
The national Open is indeed a week of immense golf opportunity, as five-time champion Ernie Els points out: “What the SA Open has meant to me has been immense. My career started by winning the SA Open at Houghton in 1992. It got me into European Tour events and into The Open where I finished fifth that year. There’s so much in the SA Open I’m grateful for.”
And it’s an opportunity Naidoo is certainly not taking for granted: “I’ve watched the SA Open growing up and to be playing here as a Sunshine Tour professional is special. For someone young like me to have this opportunity is something I’ve always looked forward to.”
Both Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell and Ardglass professional Cormac Sharvin are also in the field for their third and final event of the South African swing. Caldwell will hope to bounce back from a missed cut last week at Leopard Creek where Sharvin banked his biggest cheque of the season with a top-25 result at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Thursday’s tee times (Irish time)
- 05.00 – Cormac Sharvin
- 05.30 – Jonathan Caldwell