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Ken Borland



Van Zyl close to getting back to his best as he wins Player Challenge 0

Posted on October 24, 2022 by Ken

PENNINGTON, KwaZulu-Natal – Jaco van Zyl is close to getting back to his best as he ended a six-and-a-half year winning drought by claiming the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge title at Selborne Park Golf Club on Saturday.

Van Zyl began the final round with a one-stroke lead and finished strongly to shoot a three-under-par 69 and post a 14-under-par winning total, finishing two shots clear of Hennie Otto.

In a thrilling finish, Otto was close behind but a bogey at the par-four 13th and then a string of pars coming in saw the veteran fall just short after a final day 70.

Sean Bradley also flirted with the lead, but a double-bogey six at the penultimate hole put paid to his chances, a birdie at the last seeing him claim third place on his own on 11-under after finishing with a 69.

Pieter Moolman pushed hard too, but a pair of double-bogeys on the back nine saw him finish in a tie for fourth on 10-under with Jaco Ahlers (68).

Van Zyl gave them all a sniff when he faltered with a bogey at the par-four 14th, but he showed his composure of old as he then birdied the par-three 15th and then followed up with another birdie on the 17th.

“I was playing nicely the whole time and I felt I was hitting really good putts but they just weren’t going in,” Van Zyl said. “I actually made a seven-footer for bogey on 14, and it sounds strange, but that got me some momentum.

“On 15 I sank a big putt that turned 15 feet off the left and that really got the confidence going. Then I hit a great wedge on 17 to about two feet, and to have a two-shot lead on the 18th hole is always nice.

“I’m over the moon with the win, it’s been a rocky road and I’ve been fighting a lot of demons. So it’s a real sense of accomplishment. In golf, it’s a case of how well you are doing both on and off the course, and I can sense I am on the right track,” Van Zyl said after his 16th Sunshine Tour win and his first title since triumphing at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in February 2016.

To win an event bearing the Gary Player name was also a tremendous joy for 43-year-old Van Zyl.

“Gary was our team captain at the Rio Olympics in 2016, which was very special for me. I spent quite a bit of time talking with him in Rio and it’s really nice to now win his tournament,” Van Zyl said.

Van Zyl is now up to 14th in the Luno Order of Merit and is going to be taking renewed confidence into the lucrative summer events on tour.

Feeling right at home the author of Van Zyl’s success 0

Posted on October 24, 2022 by Ken

PENNINGTON, KwaZulu-Natal – First-round leader Brooklin Bailey spoke about feeling comfortable on the Bermuda Grass of the Selborne Park Golf Club and feeling right at home was also the author of Jaco van Zyl’s success on Friday as he claimed the lead after the second round of the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge.

Van Zyl fired a tremendous seven-under-par 65 on Friday to go into the final round on 11-under-par, one stroke ahead of another multiple Sunshine Tour winner in Hennie Otto.

The 43-year-old Van Zyl has played the short, but challenging Selborne course many times, having previously lived further down the South Coast in Port Shepstone.

“I lived in Port Shepstone for five years after school and I won provincial tournaments here, so I have good memories. It’s a great golf course and it suits me down to the ground.

“You don’t need to bomb the ball 350 metres here, you just keep it in position and manage your way around,” Van Zyl said.

The Pretoria-born golfer, who shot 68 in the first round to trail Bailey by four strokes, made the ideal start to his second round as he birdied the first three holes. He parred his way to the turn and then went right back on to script with three birdies in four holes from the 10th. A three-putt on the sloping par-three 15th green cost him a bogey, but Van Zyl finished strong by birdieing the 16th and 18th holes.

“You need to capitalise on the first few holes here, fortunately I did that and then I knew that there was a low score out there.

“On 15 there was just a very tough flag right on the slope, and even though I hit the ball pin-high and made what I thought was a good putt, the ball still went six feet down the hill and I missed that one coming back,” Van Zyl said.

The Benoni resident made a bungle of his last two Sunshine Tour events, missing the cut at the SunBet Challenge Time Square and the Vodacom Origins of Golf Highland Gate, but he made a strong start to the season with three top-20 finishes before that.

Van Zyl has been through a tough time over the last couple of years, but he felt that Friday’s 65 was the first time in a while that his score has reflected how well he has been hitting the ball.

“I’ve been struggling for the last couple of years with injuries and some personal issues, but now it all seems to be falling into place. My game has been there, but my scores just haven’t reflected it.

“But that’s what makes this game so challenging: You think you’re heading in the right direction but then you find yourself on a dirt road for a couple of weeks.

“So it was nice to be back on the tar today, and hopefully that will become a double-lane road and then a four-lane highway soon,” Van Zyl chuckled.

Otto started his round on the 10th, and an eagle-two on the par-four 18th hole saw him go out in 32, but the veteran dropped three shots on the front nine to finish with a 68. But he is right in the mix on 10-under-par, as are Pieter Moolman (69) and the in-form Albert Venter (70) on nine-under.

Bailey also started on the 10th and birdied the par-three 11th hole, before back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13 set him back. The American would go on to drop five more shots, including a double-bogey on the par-four eighth, but he also collected six more birdies to finish with a 72 and share fifth place on eight-under, just three strokes back, with Sean Bradley (71).

Bailey shatters the peace at Selborne Park with a thunderous start 0

Posted on October 21, 2022 by Ken

PENNINGTON, KwaZulu-Natal – American Brooklin Bailey shattered the peace at the Selborne Park Golf Club on Thursday with a thunderous start as he cruised to a 64 and the first-round lead in the Gary & Vivienne Player Challenge.

Bailey eagled the par-five first hole on the course adjoining the Indian Ocean and then picked up birdies on the next two holes for a phenomenal four-under start through three holes, and although his run was ended by a bogey at the par-three fourth, he parred his way through to the turn.

The 28-year-old then cruised through the back nine in five-under 31 to post an eight-under-par 64, finishing the first day one shot ahead of the South African trio of Ruan Korb, Sean Bradley and Albert Venter.

The dropped shot on the fourth hole was Bailey’s only blemish as he collected seven birdies and an eagle to post his lowest round since joining the Sunshine Tour last year.

The Texan seems to have found some form after his maiden top-10 finish in the Sunshine Tour’s previous event – the Vodacom Origins of Golf Highland Gate tournament at the end of August.

Bailey worked his magic after Korb and Bradley, playing in the same three-ball, had already posted their 65s, so he did well to go under their marks.

Bailey said after his round that he just felt right at home from the get-go in the R1.2 million event.

“It’s the Bermuda Grass for me, we play on it in Texas and I just love it, my confidence just gets higher when I’m on it. Playing in the wind is also something we do a lot of in Texas, so all-in-all it was helpful for me,” Bailey said.

“You need to be patient on the Selborne course and I like that as well, but I also like being able to give it a go when you can. I like to know you can push it when you want to as well.

“I’ve just fallen in love with the Sunshine Tour, I think there are great opportunities here. The tour does a fantastic job of providing opportunities to advance our careers. Everyone here just wants to see you thrive and it’s healthy competition.”

The tournament is a tribute to the late wife of South Africa’s greatest golfer and the continuation of Gary and Vivienne Player’s legacy through the work of their foundation.

Bailey feels a connection to the nine-time Major champion and recognises the lustre of the event bearing the Player name.

“I actually watched Gary, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer play the Par-Three Tournament at Augusta for the last time together, so to be in contention in this event, attached to a golfer like Gary, is amazing.

“It makes me really want to sketch my own name in golfing history as well,” Bailey said.

Korb’s round caught alight after he began with three straights pars – despite both the first and third holes being par-fives – as the 28-year-old fired off four birdies on the trot from the fourth hole, and then also birdied nine and 10 for good measure. After his only bogey of the day, on the par-three 15th, he finished birdie-birdie for his joint-best round of the season.

Bradley started his round birdie-birdie and picked up another shot at the par-four ninth hole, and also completed his round birdie-birdie after gaining successive shots on the 12th and 13th holes. It was the Royal Cape golfer’s best round of the season.

The in-form Venter, who is second on the Luno Order of Merit after his victory at the SunBet Challenge at Time Square last month, also reached seven-under-par as he blazed home in five-under 31.

Five players, including veteran Hennie Otto and amateur Kyle de Beer, shot six-under-par 66s.

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