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Ken Borland



Beaming Manassero lights up the Glendower gloom with redemptive triumph 0

Posted on March 10, 2024 by Ken

A beaming Matteo Manessero holds the Jonsson Workwear Open trophy in the dark at Glendower Golf Club after his first DP World Tour triumph in nearly 11 years.
Photo: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

Matteo Manassero’s beaming smile lit up the gloom at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday evening, almost shining as brightly as the not-so-distant lightning strikes as the Italian won the Jonsson Workwear Open by three strokes to win for the first time on the DP World Tour since May 2013.

Manassero had every reason to be ecstatic, considering the journey he has traversed. And while a three-strokes win sounds like an easy victory, his triumph was as dramatic as they come with the 30-year-old having to conquer not only a large chasing pack but also the weather. Manassero had just gone into a one-stroke lead with a 15-foot birdie on the 16th hole when play was suspended due to the threat of lightning. After a two-and-a-half hour delay, he returned to complete the job in near-darkness and with plenty of thunder still around Glendower.

His finish was just as thunderous as Manassero went birdie-birdie to close with four birdies in a row, posting 26-under-par after a 66 in the final round. It was what was needed to hold off the staunch challenge of Thriston Lawrence (63), Shaun Norris (68) and Jordan Smith (68), who tied for second on 23-under.

To understand the magnitude of Manassero’s achievement, one has to know where he has been. The world’s top amateur in 2009, he broke a host of records for the youngest to achieve certain landmarks and in 2010 he became the youngest ever winner on the European Tour when he won the Castello Masters in Valencia aged 17 years and 188 days.

In May 2013 he won the PGA Championship at Wentworth for his fourth title and entered the top-30 in the world rankings, all before he turned 21.

And then his career nose-dived. By the end of 2018 he had lost his European Tour card and ended up on the Alps Tour, two levels down.

He gave up pro golf for a while but then won on the Alps Tour in 2020 and made his way to the Challenge Tour. He won twice last year, opening up a return to the main DP World Tour. On Sunday at Glendower, his redemption was complete.

“It is the best day of my life,” Manassero said as lightning flashed behind his head on the 18th green. “It’s been a crazy journey and I’m so incredibly happy to be here holding this trophy. It feels like it was written somewhere, to finish with those birdies.

“Glendower will stay in my heart forever and I just feel incredible right now, it’s really difficult to put it into words, but I am very proud after what I have been through. I don’t want to think about the tough times now, but there is a lot of emotion.

“Forty minutes ago we were almost coming back tomorrow to finish, so there has been a lot of tension. But I am so happy to be feeling these emotions again out on the golf course. It’s strange, we live for these emotions that take us out of our comfort zone and are difficult to handle,” Manassero said.

The par-three 15th hole was where Manassero’s winning surge began, moments after Lawrence had eagled the 17th to go into the lead on 23-under. But it was also where his challenge looked as if it might have been headed for a watery grave as his tee shot just cleared the water it was heading for, leaving him with a 12-foot birdie putt which he nailed.

“On 15 that could have been in the water. I just tried to hit an easy six-iron, but in golf you cannot predict anything. Sometimes a shot that doesn’t feel great leads to the birdie opportunity that changes everything. But that was more than two-and-a-half hours ago and I have been through a lot of emotion since then!”

Before the weather delay, the co-sanctioned tournament with the Sunshine Tour seemed inexorably headed for a fascinating finish. Manassero admitted that his many challengers were in his thoughts.

“The guys behind me on the leaderboard were playing some incredible golf. Every time I looked at the leaderboard, there was a different guy and more birdies. There was always someone chasing me.”

And Manassero himself was chasing a DP World Tour victory of enormous personal magnitude. Having fallen into the trap of chasing results and outcomes, instead of focusing on process, during his first career as a professional golfer, the product of Verona also admitted that, of course, he had thoughts of winning right through the final round.

“There’s always a bit of back-of-forth in your mind, that is normal. But you also try and think other thoughts, really anything that is positive, things that I say to myself to help me play more freely. But to think about the result is normal, just not constantly because then it becomes really hard to express yourself and hit the ball straight,” Manassero explained.

While Lawrence and Norris led the South African challenge, Oliver Bekker was also a member of the chasing pack, a birdie on the 17th putting him one shot off the lead. But the 39-year-old then hit his approach on the 18th into the water next to the green, finishing with a double-bogey that left him in a tie for sixth on 21-under-par.

Smith has reason to smile as 2nd season of SA20 takes cricket further from ugly place 0

Posted on March 04, 2024 by Ken

South African cricket was in an ugly place before the arrival of the SA20, and now that the second season has proven to be just as exciting as the first, commissioner Graeme Smith has reason to smile.

The former Proteas captain was certainly a happy man this last week as he got stuck into the post-mortems of the event that once again enjoyed tremendous crowd support, threw up more fantastic cricket, and was once again won by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape.

“In two years we have built something South African cricket can be really proud of. At the end of 2022, we were all looking for something positive. Now people are raving about the SA20,” Smith told Rapport.

“The feedback from the players, the teams and the fans has been extremely positive. The actual cricket played was probably the greatest strength of the tournament, teams and individuals really came to the fore and it was very exciting. And we will never take for granted the number of people who came to the grounds and turned on their tellies to watch.

“Mondays and Tuesdays are the toughest days to get a crowd, but to see the people come and support was fantastic, we were still 65% full on those days. And then from Wednesday to Sunday the crowds were incredible. The final weekend of league action was probably my favourite time because the crowds were amazing and it was tense cricket,” Smith said.

The success of the SA20 has certainly disturbed the cricketing landscape. Australia’s Big Bash League, which this year overlapped with the SA20 because it finished on January 24, is apparently feeling the heat. There has been talk of them bringing their auction forward to try and get the cream of the cop and making players sign guarantees that they will be available for the complete tournament. Smith has heard other rumours, but is not flustered by the competition.

“I hear rumours that the Big Bash will move to December. But those players who sign for them will still have options; those players who initially backed us I will always be grateful to.

“We will look at things like pre-signings and our auctions, but the timing of the auction will depend on what we deicide about pre-signings.”

But it is the International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates, which had its final on Saturday, which is causing the greatest ruction when it comes to these rapidly-spreading franchise leagues.

“We’ve built up our SA20 against the Big Bash and the ILT20 sitting right on top of us, so there are a thousand more positives for us than negatives. We obviously want some high-quality overseas players, but our tournament definitely has a local player base.

“But the ILT20 consumes too many overseas players; they require nine foreign players in an XI. So it’s not really an investment in UAE cricket. That also puts them up against the ICC, who passed a ruling that franchise T20 leagues are only allowed up to five overseas players. They gave the ILT20 an extended time to sort it out because they said they had existing broadcast deals,” Smith said.

With the Sunrisers Eastern Cape once again dominating the SA20, questions were asked as to why they don’t get home ground advantage in the playoffs. But the nature of the tournament, with this season’s qualifiers only decided after the last round-robin match, means it is logistically near-impossible to give the top two teams home fixtures.

A short, one-month tournament is what the SA20 is all about, and only deciding who will host the final at the end of the event would require nearly a week to be added to the schedule in order to satisfy the logistics of making the last game a real extravaganza and fitting finale.

“We’re trying to keep the tournament short and exciting, four or five weeks maximum. The SA20 is a massive ship to move logistically and it’s very difficult to do that in one day. We have to sell tickets for the final and brand the stadium properly …

“The final was sold out two weeks before the game, which is a real sign of success. We understand the fans want to see their team play in the final at home, but the format will probably stay the same. The IPL have a very similar set-up with neutral venues for the final, it’s like Champions League football as well. Like this year, we’ll probably give the winners the opening game next season,” Smith said.

Apart from stimulating the economy – Smith pointed out how airports around the country have been full of SA20-connected people for the last month – the successful league has also planted the first seeds of what will hopefully be a hugely successful 2027 World Cup in South Africa.

“The SA20 means that there should be a lot of high-quality people who have worked on an event of similar level to the 2027 World Cup. We’ve given them incredible experience of working under high pressure to very high standards, it’s a really high-performance environment. Our staff have made me proud and I want to see an outstanding World Cup here in 2027,” Smith said.

Given his success in setting up and driving the SA20, what chance Smith for the tournament director role in the new organising company CSA have just registered?

No big smile on Boucher’s face because saving job is 1st priority 0

Posted on May 13, 2022 by Ken

One would not have guessed from Mark Boucher’s face that he was celebrating another Proteas series win on Monday, but the lack of a big smile was probably because the South Africa coach knows his first priority now is to save his job in the face of those in South African cricket who are intent on his removal.

The Proteas ended their season on Monday in Gqeberha with a crunching 332-run win over Bangladesh for a 2-0 series win and an overall record of five wins from seven Tests this summer.

Combined with their unexpectedly good showing at the T20 World Cup and their brilliant 3-0 ODI whitewash of India, their coach should be sitting pretty and all smiles.

But instead Boucher will be facing a disciplinary hearing next month over charges of gross misconduct. In terms of his on-field job, in the here-and-now, about the only shortcomings of this Test side have been their annoying tendency to lose the first Test of a series, as they did against India and in New Zealand.

“It’s been a good summer, but we are still learning, we’re definitely not the complete team yet,” Boucher said sternly. “We’ve had our challenges, but we’ve played some very competitive cricket at times.

“There have also been times when we have played some bad cricket, like the first Tests against India and New Zealand. But we have grown a lot in a short space of time.

“For me personally, it has been tough. I’ve really enjoyed coaching the guys and the cricketing side of my job, it’s a tight unit. But outside that team environment, it’s quite difficult to say I enjoyed it.

“I don’t think anyone would be able to say they enjoy what has been put on my plate,” Boucher said.

The 45-year-old was famous for being a fighter though in his playing days, and overcoming challenges is his trademark, something his team managed to do against Bangladesh when they were lumped with a second-string side due to five players choosing to go to the IPL instead.

“It gave us the opportunity to play a couple of other guys and see what sort of players we have in the system. And also the opportunity to play a different brand of cricket, which has been good to watch.

“It’s a nice position to be in. The IPL guys did vacate their spots, and there is good competition now for those places. Through Covid we’ve looked at a lot of players and I think it’s paying off now,” Boucher said.

But even though things on the field are going well right now, the sum of all real South African cricket lovers’ fears could well come true if Boucher is fired for incidents that happened in the changeroom two decades ago.

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    John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

    Our Christian experience begins when the Holy Spirit starts working in our imperfect lives. An inexplicable restlessness and a feeling that nothing can give you the satisfaction you yearn for, could be the Spirit working in you.

    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

    But this inner struggle is part of spiritual life … Commit yourself to God and open yourself to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

    It is by great grace that you were chosen by God to serve him and to live to the honour and glory of his name. Surrender unconditionally to the Lord and you will discover that your life gains new meaning and purpose.



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