Irish quartet looking to deny Ritchie history in Bloemfontein

Robin Dawson (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images)

John Murphy, Tom McKibbin, Robin Dawson and Richard O’Donovan face the formidable task of stopping JC Ritchie from completing a Challenge Tour hat-trick at Thursday’s starting Mangaung Open.

Ritchie has arrived in Bloemfontein as the hottest golfer on both tours with back-to-back wins in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and last week’s Jonsson Workwear Open. A third consecutive victory would be a first in Challenge Tour history and would also earn him automatic promotion to the DP World Tour.

“I thought about taking a week off this week to get a rest, but while I’m hot I’ll keep playing and see if I’ll be blessed to get another win,” said Ritchie.


“I’ll take this week as calmly as I can and get my energy levels back up because there are still a lot of events coming up. These Challenge Tour events on the Sunshine Tour are life-changing for us. Previously, the chances were quite limited for South Africans to get onto the DP World Tour. You had the big co-sanctioned tournaments and then qualifying school. For us to have another foot in the door and a few more stepping stones we can climb with this Challenge Tour series is life-changing for us.”

Ritchie is currently first on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca rankings. If he doesn’t claim another victory this week, a place inside the top 20 on the rankings at the end of the season will also secure him DP World Tour playing privileges.

McKibbin is Ireland’s best placed player on the standings and will hope his form continues when the $250 000 tournament tees off at Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park Golf Club on Thursday.

The Holywood teenager followed a podium finish at the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open with a tied-seventh result last week in Durban and sits in fifth place on the money-list as he looks to cement his place within the top-20 on the standings and earn DP World Tour promotion.

The ever-reliable Murphy moved into the top-40 and sits in 39th after bouncing back from a missed cut in Cape Town with a tie for 18th result last week. Unlike McKibbin who’s playing off conditional status, Murphy enjoys a full card on the Challenge Tour this season and he’ll be keen to make the most of it having tasted action on both the DP World and PGA Tours in recent times.

Robin Dawson missed the cut in Durban but the Tramore pro broke par both days and will be encouraged having carded eight birdies in-all before falling to the sharp four-under par cut-mark by a single stroke, while Sunshine Tour regular O’Donovan will hope to rebound after a disappointing 13-over par 36-hole tally at the same tournament.

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