The 2016 Zambia Sugar Open tees off on Thursday at Lusaka Golf Club and defending champion Vaughn Groenewald is eager to get hit title defence off to a solid start.
‘It brings back good memories, coming back here. I played great here last year and I’m playing well at the moment so I’m looking forward to it,’ he said.
Groenewald was one shot off the pace going into Sunday at last week’s Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open, however a disappointing final round left him tied for 19th.
‘Look, I’ve got confidence,’ he said. ‘Last week’s last round – I still hit the ball great – I just missed it in the wrong places. When you start pushing it, something I normally never do, then it just goes all wrong. But last week was good. I’ve been on tour for 21 years but I’m still learning. That’s never happened to me but there is always a first time and that’s happened now and I’ll know what to do next time.’
In Lusaka last year Groenewald claimed the title by a four-shot margin over Jean Hugo. The memories came flooding back with his return to Zambia this week, galvanising his will to go low.
‘It’s a great golf course,’ said the defending champ. ‘It’s got five par-fives. That’s the most important and that’s why I won here last year. There were only one or two rounds where I didn’t birdie all of the par-fives. In the final round I birdied all the par-fives, so that’s the key on this course. On Sunday the back-nine is really the key here. You’ve got four par-fives and if you can birdie all of them and just play solidly on the others then you’ll be perfect.’
When questioned about some remarks made by fellow tour players about his consistent putting displays, a smiling Groenewald said: ‘Putting has always been my strong point. That’s why I’m called “The Boom”. It’s not for long driving, it’s more for sinking the long putts. Last year I putted really well here and last week in Zim I putted great. The course looks fabulous. I think the greens may be a little bit slower than last year.’
Being able to adapt to different surfaces and the pace of different greens on tour has been a strong point in his 21-year career and this week will be no different.
‘It’s actually an amazing feeling. I’ve played so many times on different greens. Your brain adapts almost immediately. You get on the course and you start hitting a couple of putts and your brain just adapts to it. That’s what practice does,’ he said.
A title defence is a special moment in anyone’s career and Groenewald is happy to be back in Lusaka.
‘I’m looking forward to this week. When you get here you just feel great. You know everybody comes to you and says “Are you going to defend your title?” so I’m going to give it my best and I’m feeling good,’ he said.