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Ken Borland

SA Open has a great friend of golf & a new venue on board 0

Posted on June 15, 2022 by Ken

The South African Open has an exciting new venue in Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate and a long-term sponsor in Investec, a great friend of the Sunshine Tour, as the second-oldest national open in the world unveiled the details of the 2022 event.

The 112th edition of the SA Open will be held in early December, with the exact dates still being negotiated with the DP World Tour, and Investec will be title sponsors for the next four years, putting up a minimum prize fund of $1.5 million this year. The financial services company are now the patrons of both men’s and women’s national opens, over and above their support of four leading female professionals and the Sunshine Tour Transformation Class.

Blair Atholl, north of Johannesburg, is the former farm of Gary Player, who won the SA Open a record 13 times, and he designed the course which, at 7527 metres is one of the longest in the world. Water features on 11 of the holes and its closing stretch is considered particularly tough.

“It’s very exciting that the SA Open is back on the DP World Tour schedule after taking a big hit last year because of the pandemic and the world shutting South Africa down,” Sunshine Tour commissioner Thomas Abt told The Citizen on Monday.

“The second-oldest national open deserves to be on the DP World Tour and it’s very exciting to have Investec on board, their investment in golf is very positive.

“Blair Atholl is a new venue, but it has prestige, history and heritage. We had the Blair Atholl Championship there last year and they have an eagerness to bring the tournament there and show what they can do.

“It’s a wonderful layout, a big course and there is lots of space for spectators and activations. Investec’s slogan is ‘Out of the Ordinary’ and they wanted to change it up and do something that is not the norm,” Abt said.

Last year’s SA Open was only a Sunshine Tour event, with Danie van Tonder triumphing at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City.

Blair Atholl certainly passed its test as a venue for professional golf last October, a blustery, shifting wind blowing between the rocky hills of the Magaliesburg and through the Crocodile River Valley to add to the challenge. Apart from its sheer length, the layout requires long and accurate shots and precise game-management.

Most of the overseas field missing, but winning SA Open still won’t be easy 0

Posted on January 04, 2022 by Ken

This week’s South African Open at Sun City may be missing the vast majority of the overseas contingent, but claiming the title of the second-oldest national open in golf is still not going to be easy with four golfers ranked inside the world’s top-100 leading the field at the Gary Player Country Club from Thursday.

Defending champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout is the highest ranked of those at No.48, but Garrick Higgo will be breathing down his neck, as he is on the rankings in 57th place, as the duo battle for the unofficial crown of being South Africa’s hottest young golfer.

Current form will probably count for more than the rankings though and the other two top-100 players in the field – Dean Burmester and Shaun Norris – are both in fine form and should pose a serious challenge.

Norris, who finished tied for third in last weekend’s Joburg Open, has been wonderfully consistent over the last few months. In 11 events on the Japanese Tour, he won the Japan Open, had three other top-10 finishes and five in the top-20. Norris has enjoyed considerable success in Asia through the years, but will want to show just how good he is on home turf in the SA Open.

Burmester finished in the top-10 at both the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, finishing in a career-best 18th place on the European tour’s order of merit. He is another who is a better golfer than many may think.

Another contender to look out for is world number 111 Dylan Frittelli, who plays alongside Bezuidenhout and Higgo on the U.S. PGA Tour and will be angry with his second and final round in the Joburg Open, when he shot one-over-par and dropped out of contention after his first-round 67 in the event that was reduced to 36 holes by the weather and Covid travel restrictions.

Those travel bans from South Africa have decimated the field in terms of overseas competitors, but there are still a few who will be teeing it up at Sun City.

Welshman Rhys Enoch is a regular Sunshine Tour competitor and he won the Cape Town Open in 2018 and the KitKat Group Pro-Am in March this year.

Scotsman David Drysdale and Brazil’s Adilson da Silva are also seasoned Sunshine Tour campaigners, Johannes Veerman is an American who won the Czech Masters on the European Tour this year and played in both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.

There are even still a couple of Englishmen in the field in Steve Surry and Chris Cannon.

Schwartzel bats for course that has caused him so many tears 0

Posted on September 24, 2018 by Ken


Glendower Golf Club was confirmed on Wednesday as the venue for next year’s South African Open … and a most unlikely golfer went in to bat for the Edenvale course that will host the second-oldest national open for the third straight year.

Charl Schwartzel has led in the final round of the two previous SA Opens held at Glendower, in January this year and in November 2013, but on both occasions it ended in tears.

Schwartzel squandered four shots in the last five holes of the 2015 SA Open and then lost on the first hole of the playoff to Andy Sullivan as his wayward tee-shot went miles off track. The previous Glendower SA Open saw Schwartzel leading by three shots four holes into the final round, before he faded to a 71 after a triple-bogey on the sixth and a double on 10, and finished three behind winner Morten Orum Madsen.

“I’m excited to come back here because I don’t see it as being two disappointments. I see it as a course that has treated me well, for two years in a row I had chances to win, but there are a lot of very good players out there. Glendower suits me well, and to know that I came so close to winning here is a positive because now I have another opportunity.

“You have to play cleverly here, think your way around, it requires a lot of strategy and thinking, which is right down my alley. Modern-day courses are often wide open and they allow guys to get away with playing badly, the course plays into so many hands. But you don’t have that freedom here, if you don’t stick to the right lines here then the course will catch you,” Schwartzel said at Glendower on Wednesday.

Schwartzel is known for putting in an enormous amount of preparation and strategizing when it comes to the major golf tournaments and he said he would be returning to Glendower a couple of weeks before the 105th South African Open tees off on January 7.

“The four Majors are by far the most important tournaments and you obviously focus more on those, but this tournament obviously has some degree of importance for me as well. Personally, it’s the same as the Majors and other big tournaments for me in that I prepare the same. Ninety-five percent of our tournaments are at sea-level, but here you’re at 5000 feet and it makes a big difference in club-selection.

“So preparation is important, I want to get comfortable with the course even though I know it well, make sure about the lines off the tee. It’s how I prepare for the Majors and if you do that then the expectation goes away and you’re able to handle the pressure.

“I hope it works out, but if it doesn’t I’ll try again. I can only control what I do and if someone plays better than me then so be it,” Schwartzel, who has never won the SA Open, said.

The 2011 Masters champion said he hoped the SA Open would remain the sort of tournament children are told about when they sit on the knees of their grandfathers.

“When you see the passion of Ernie Els [tournament host] to play in it, it’s inspiring for the future generations. I hope guys like Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace feel the same as me, because I’m going to keep coming back and give it my all,” Schwartzel said.

In the meantime, the 31-year-old will be back on the farm in Deneysville – his mom Lizette’s whole family is in farming, anything from corn to wheat to dairy to chickens and pigs – and, perhaps controversially, will not be playing in the first two co-sanctioned events, the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

“I’m not playing any tournaments in December, I didn’t get into the Nedbank Golf Challenge, so it will be a nice long break and I feel I need it,” Schwartzel said.

The 105th South African Open Championship will again be proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, with a new title sponsor in BMW, and it will again have Els as tournament host/player.

“Sports such as motorsport, sailing and golf are key global sponsorship pillars for the BMW brand. With this in mind, this local sponsorship initiative – which mirrors the brand’s global sponsorship strategy – sees BMW become the overall naming rights partner of the SA Open Championship. In addition, it gives the brand the opportunity to consolidate its position in golf with a signature event that we hope will grow over time to become the biggest professional event in South African golf,” said Tim Abbott, the managing director of the BMW group in South Africa.



Els wants local SA Open winner this year before big plans for next year 0

Posted on January 07, 2016 by Ken



Tournament ambassador Ernie Els is desperate for a local winner of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club this year, but for next year’s event he has big plans to bring out Rory McIlroy and other top international golfers for the second oldest national open in the game, which starts on Thursday.

After three successive foreign winners of the South African Open – Andy Sullivan and Morten Orum Madsen at Glendower and Henrik Stenson at Serengeti, Els said on Tuesday that it was time for a team effort by the South Africans to ensure the prestigious trophy returns home.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on winning our national open, but for the last few years the foreigners have come and taken the trophy. I know it’s not a team competition, but I can guarantee you that the South African guys are going to pull together to try and take the trophy back because the foreigners are starting to take over. Branden Grace has not won it yet and I know he’s desperate to do it and I think George Coetzee is taking it very seriously this year as well. The local guys really want to win it,” Els said.

But from next year, Els himself will make it even harder for the home golfers as he plans to bring world number three and four-time major winner McIlroy over for the tournament.

“I’ve got Rory to commit to playing in the tournament, although I gave him some time to do it, a couple of years. For those top guys in the world, their schedule is so condensed, but I’m sure next year we’ll get him down here, maybe we’ll put him up in Cape Town for New Year’s.

“Rory has been such a great friend and supporter of our charities, as have other great players too. They’re all great lovers of South Africa, guys like Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood are in Cape Town right now. I’m beginning to find my feet as the tournament ambassador and I want to make the field stronger. The top couple of golfers in the world have horribly busy schedules but I’m getting commitments from them,” Els said.

As for Ernie’s own game, the five-time winner of the SA Open had, by his own admission, an awful 2015, but he has spent many hours playing while also getting himself refreshed over the festive season.

“It was tough last year, as bad as it’s ever been, I missed some really short putts and I had tennis elbow. But I took time off, I feel refreshed and I feel up for it. I’d love to be in the top-50 again by the end of the year and I played a lot in December in Oubaai,” Els said.



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