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Ken Borland

Those who remember Houghton GC as a regular venue for major events will be pleased Joburg Open is moving there 0

Posted on January 04, 2023 by Ken

If you are a golf fan of a certain age then you will remember the Houghton Golf Club as being the regular venue for major South African golf tournaments, and the announcement that the Joburg Open will be moving there from November 24-27 will be a pleasing one.

Established in 1926, Houghton Golf Club was considered one of the best parkland courses in Johannesburg and hosted the South African Open eight times between 1951 and 1992, and the club hosted the Alfred Dunhill Championship between 1996 and 2004, after which it moved to Leopard Creek. Eight-time SA Open champion Sid Brews, South Africa’s leading golfing hero before Bobby Locke, was the pro at Houghton for 35 years.

But now, 18 years after Marcel Siem won the Alfred Dunhill Championship there in 2004, a co-sanctioned event with the European Tour will return to the course that underwent a complete redesign in 2009, becoming a Jack Nicklaus signature layout.

“We have staged Big Easy and IGT tour events since we closed in 2007 and reopened in 2019 with basically a new golf course,” CEO Robby Richardson said at the announcement on Tuesday at Houghton Golf Club.

“The greens are typical Jack Nicklaus designs and exceptionally undulating. If we can get their speed up to 12 or 13 then that will the major part of the course’s protection.

“We will try to harden and speed them up a bit, and we have also narrowed the fairways between 260 and 290 metres from the tee. It’s going to be nice to see how the pros play it,” Richardson said of a course that is by no means long, but still plays 6708 metres from the back tees, compared to the 6899 of Glendower and 7105 of Gary Player Country Club.

The course uses almost entirely it’s own water from grey sources as well as boreholes, so Richardson added that he is hoping the summer rains arrive soon.

Thriston Lawrence, ninth on the DP World Tour order of merit, is confirmed to be defending his Joburg Open title won at Randpark last November, while Dean Burmester and Oliver Bekker have also signed up, so there will be plenty of quality golf for local fans as well as the expected broadcast audience of 300 million viewers.

An age since Munster made such a poor start, but Bulls off worst show in long time 0

Posted on December 27, 2022 by Ken

It’s been an absolute age since Munster made such a poor start to their season, but the Bulls also produced their worst performance in a long time last weekend, so their United Rugby Championship clash at Thomond Park on Saturday night is going to be a tense affair.

Munster are currently a lowly 12th in the URC standings, having lost three of their four games. They have never finished outside the top-10 of the competition in all its previous guises.

The Bulls were hammered 35-21 by Glasgow Warriors last weekend, their first loss this season.

“Munster have not had the best start,” Bulls backline coach Chris Rossouw acknowledged on Tuesday, “but they still have very good players. Plus their Ireland A players will be back from South Africa.

“They have a very good record in Limerick and halfbacks Conor Murray and Ben Healy control the game very well.

“Damian de Allende is a big departure, he is sorely missed by them, you can see that already. But they play the same way as last year with a strong forward pack,” Rossouw said.

The Bulls have also obviously not been at their best, but may well be boosted by the international-class services of flyhalf Johan Goosen and wing Sbu Nkosi this weekend.

Rossouw spoke of the need for them to be able to adapt better to setbacks in the heat of the moment, which is not always easy to do for a young side.

“It was obviously a big disappointment against Glasgow, but if you’re off your game then you will obviously get big points against you, like in Super Rugby. We did not get things right and got a big hiding,” Rossouw said.

“What was frustrating was that we just could not convert. Our maul got disrupted and, although we’re not meant to say it, probably illegally. They also attacked us at the breakdown.

“We’ve cleared up some issues with the referee and we need to do things differently in the maul and sharpen up at the rucks. You can’t have that many opportunities and not convert.

“In the heat of the moment, you need that ability to adapt and make plans. We try and incorporate that into our training, constantly trying to find a different way and how to vary our play,” Rossouw said.

Readers will find the connection between Player’s life story & Higgo’s 0

Posted on July 07, 2021 by Ken

Readers of Gary Player’s life story will know how much South Africa’s greatest golfer was affected by losing his mother at a young age, but ironically it has been the tragedy that connects him to one of this country’s best rising talents – Garrick Higgo.

Player’s mother Muriel succumbed to cancer in 1943, when he was just eight years old. The last time he saw her was on Christmas Day, two days later she died. Player has said that something broke in him that day and he has been trying to fix it ever since, which partly explains the remarkable passion and tenacity of one of the hardest-working sports stars there has ever been.

Higgo was introduced to golf by his father Guillermo, but in 2008, when he was just nine, the family, which includes two siblings, were involved in a car crash, hit by another vehicle, and his Dad was fatally injured.

“I met Gary Player just after that because we both had a holiday home at Plettenberg Bay and we used to play and practise a lot together, play nine holes in the afternoon. His Mom died when he was eight, which was around the age I was when I lost my Dad. So we connected, it is a real and amazing connection, and it’s been there since before all the good things happened to me.

“It was only when I was around 12 or 13 that I totally understood who Gary Player is. I would be watching the Majors and I would see Gary’s name always popping up. He calls me a lot and he has really helped my game and especially the mental aspects of it,” Higgo says of his remarkable friendship with someone more than sixty years his senior.

It is Higgo who is now playing in the Majors and the lessons Player, who won nine times on golf’s biggest stages, has imparted should stand him in very good stead. The 22-year-old made his Major debut in May at the PGA Championship and made the cut, before really getting to grips with the brutal Kiawah Island course with a 69 in the final round that saw him rise into a tie for 64th.

In last weekend’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Higgo missed the cut by two strokes, but one should take into account the hectic build-up the Paul Roos Gymnasium product had to that tournament. In a way, Higgo was the victim of his own success as he won the Palmetto Championship the week before, in just his second PGA Tour start.

And with a clearly emotional and overjoyed Player giving Higgo a phone call at the winner’s press conference, the U.S. media understandably had a new sensation to focus on, especially given his three wins in the last year on the European Tour.

“It had an impact because I was very tired mentally, each one of my wins has changed my life and the one on the U.S. PGA Tour the most significantly. My caddy, who is also my best friend, also had to fly back before the U.S. Open because his wife went into labour. So I wasn’t exactly fresh going in, but I played alright and just had a couple of bad bounces.

“I’m learning from each week I play and it made it tough winning the week before the U.S. Open. I didn’t play my best, I was mentally drained, I had a different caddy and I just missed the cut. And I’ve learnt so far in the Majors that you’ve got to have everything working, you have to do everything well. You can’t lose focus, if you are slightly off-line you will be punished.

“But the more I play in the Majors, the better I’ll get. I need to tighten up on my misses and just get more comfortable with everything going on,” Higgo said this week.

Naturally, he knows there is still plenty of room for improvement in his game as well.

“A couple of things in my swing were a bit off so I went back to a draw, that’s the way I like to hit it, I’ve gone back to what is comfortable for me. I’ve also had to work on my short-game technique because the pins are always tucked here in America; I needed to figure out how to get a lot more spin on my chips and get them shorter.

“I wold say my strengths are my mental game, putting and the short game, those are definitely my strongest suits, and my iron play has always been solid. I’m a little streaky off the tee though, I’m generally straight and can hit it a decent distance, but I would like to hit a lot more fairways,” Higgo said.

With arguably the best mental mentor one could have in Player, Higgo certainly seems equipped with the right stuff to keep making waves in world golf. And armed with a simple philosophy, it is understandable why the left-hander has been able to win so quickly at every new rung of the golfing ladder he has climbed.

“I treat every event the same, I don’t make them into big things, whether it’s a Big Easy Tour event or a PGA tournament, and I think that helps mentally. The other guys in a PGA event are obviously going to be better than those in a Big Easy tournament, but I don’t worry about them really, I’m just focused on my own game.”

With the sort of start to his international career Higgo has made, it is the opposition who are surely going to be worrying about him more and more.

Rugby in the age of Covid-19 0

Posted on May 11, 2020 by Ken

Rugby in the age of Covid-19 will be a non-spectator sport but at least there are some signs that action will return to the fields and our television screens soon.

New Zealand, thanks to their excellent leadership and general good behaviour of their citizens, are once again being the world-leaders and the great news came out of the Land of the Long White Cloud this week that prime minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce an easing of their Lockdown to Level 2 on Monday, which allows for the resumption of competitive sport.

Rugby – and more particularly SuperRugby – has been in quarantine since mid-March, but now it looks likely that New Zealand’s franchises will return to action perhaps as early as the first weekend in June. NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said the players would need three to four weeks of training to be ready for contact and to put on the sort of spectacle rugby fans are so desperate to have back in their lives.

The competition will be called SuperRugby Aotearoa and will involve New Zealand’s five franchises – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders. They will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, with two matches every weekend. But all matches will be played in closed stadiums.

South African rugby fans will have to be more patient, however. While New Zealand this week reported no new Covid-19 cases, South Africa is still living with a pandemic that is still causing more cases (437 announced on Friday) and deaths each day. We’re just going to have to accept New Zealand once again having a headstart on us.

While it is obviously disappointing that spectators won’t be able to watch live at the venues, the first priority has to be to get rugby on the go again, even if it is just on television. To that end, WorldRugby this week put out a statement from their medical experts that all rugby should be played behind closed doors. Even then, they say a minimum of 167 people (58 players, eight stadium operations staff, 41 people working for television, 16 medical personnel, 10 administration staff and four security guards) would be needed at a stadium to put on a high-level game of rugby, so that can’t happen until government allows gatherings of 200 people.

There are also conditions attached to the return to training, which initially will have to be non-contact with masks, and moving from pairs to small groups to full squads.

It looks likely that the two Tests the Springboks were meant to host against Scotland in July will now be played in the summer, but the Rugby Championship is still scheduled to be played in August/September. If our domestic franchises only return to action in July (which is probably the best-case scenario), then the All Blacks will have a massive conditioning advantage over the world champions. But the cash-strapped sport’s need to return to international action is so urgent that those imbalances just have to be accepted.

An additional problem in this country once rugby returns behind closed doors is access to the games. Not being able to go to the stadium is one thing, but most rugby fans cannot afford pay-TV, especially in ever-tighter economic times. Should at least some matches not be broadcast on free-to-air television?

One of the major axes I have to grind with SA Rugby is how they have allowed potentially their most valuable brand after the Springboks, the Currie Cup, to wither into near insignificance. Hopefully when our four SuperRugby franchises plus the Free State Cheetahs and Southern Kings, play their replacement tournament later this year it will spark the revival of the greatest domestic competition.

One only has to watch the sheer passion and intensity on display in the re-runs of Currie Cup finals from early in the last decade to realise what it meant to the players, even the Springboks who were allowed to take part back then. Hopefully once crowds are allowed to attend as well, they will show similar enthusiasm.

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    “Attempting to serve the Lord without the strength of the Holy Spirit results in frustration and ultimate disaster.

    “If your vision of him grows dim, your service will become powerless and ineffective. This will happen if your spiritual reserves are not regularly replenished through prayer and meditation.

    “You must put him first in all your activities. Your service for him must be the result of your intimate knowledge of him. Only when he enjoys priority in all things, can you understand life from his perspective. Putting Christ first in your life and work makes you a more capable servant of God.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

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