The thrill of playing in your home-town open coupled with the prospect of earning a spot in The Open is more than enough motivation to perform, and Sipho Bujela agrees fully.
Bujela’s 67, in the qualifying round, placed him in a share of the first spot with Matthew Spacey, Jake Redman and Irvin Mazibuko and thereby guaranteeing him another opportunity to shine in front of his home crowd.
‘I am proud to be playing the Joburg Open again,’ said Bujela who hails from Soweto, just south-west of Johannesburg.
‘It is the one tournament I don’t want to miss because it is my hometown championship, and knowing that if you finish in the top three you get to play The Open is more motivation.’
He adds that, apart from it being the only tournament in South Africa that serves as a qualifier for The Open Championship, for him, it has personal importance.
‘You see, this tournament is the only tournament where my family and friends are able to come watch me play, so in that way, it is not special to me alone but to the people close to me as well.’
And while he is pleased to be part of the star-studded field at this R16.5-million tournament, Bujela is looking beyond his own personal success at Randpark. He feels the progress made by members of the Gary Player Class of 2017-18 – a development programme of the Sunshine Tour aimed at assisting historically disadvantaged golfers – is something to be proud of.
‘This tournament is a major thing for us,’ he said. ‘When you play here and play well, you can improve your standings on the rankings and that promise of playing The Open if you come top three is special. I am happy I saw a lot of the guys from the Gary Player Class in this field because it means more of us will get the opportunity to compete with the best.’
Keenan Davidse, a member of that group too, set the tone last season when he finished in a tie for seventh, and for Bujela, that result was just evidence of what players can achieve when given opportunities.
‘I am aiming for that top three. It will be difficult but if I don’t believe I can achieve that, then I should not be here. It is possible and Keenan showed it, so with the couple of guys that are in the field this week, it’s possible.’
The Gary Player Class of 2017 is the Sunshine Tour’s main development squad for previously disadvantaged professional golfers and benefits from the longstanding and continued support of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), that was founded in 1999 as the official body for golf development in South Africa, as well as the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) in the collective effort to use golf to improve the lives of disadvantaged South Africans.
Bujela missed the cut in the corresponding event last season but he is determined to make amends and says if he continues to play the way he did at Ruimsig Country Club during the qualifying round, then he will stand a good chance of achieving his goal.
Photo: Sunshine Tour