Amidst a golden run of form for South African golfers, this week’s Royal Swazi Challenge on the Sunshine Tour offers 19 professionals in particular the opportunity to also make a name for themselves, writes MICHAEL VLISMAS.
The performances of Brandon Stone, Erik van Rooyen, Justin Harding and Zander Lombard have been in the spotlight on the European Tour and Asian Tour over the past few weeks. On the amateur scene, Christo Lamprecht, Wilco Nienaber, Jovan Rebula, Deon Germishuys and Martin Vorster have all won titles abroad.
And when the Royal Swazi Challenge, an R800 000 tournament on the Tour’s Sun Challenge Series, tees off at the Royal Swazi Sun Country Club on Wednesday, another group of South African golfers will be seeking to make headlines.
A total of 19 professionals from the Sunshine Tour’s Gary Player Class – the tour’s talent identification squad that builds on the work of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) and other foundations to grow South African golf – will be in the field in eSwatini.
Heinrich Bruiners in particular will be looking to lead their challenge. Bruiners comes into this tournament having finished tied 12th in the Sun City Challenge and with three runner-up finishes on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour.
A few words of inspiration from South African football legend Lucas Radebe and Bruiners’ own more focused approach to his career has made the difference this season.
‘I’d been playing events and getting nowhere. I was practising for five hours a day, hitting hundreds of golf balls on the range, and then going to the gym, but I realised I was doing it just to show people I’m working hard. So I cut down my practice time to make it more focused. I practice with more intensity now rather than just mindlessly hitting balls.
‘And I’m doing it for me. Lucas Radebe came and spoke to all of the Gary Player Class members during a recent training camp at the World of Golf, and he told us that nobody can be you. You need to want to do this for yourself and not for anybody else,’ said Bruiners.
Bruiners is already a winner on the Sunshine Tour, but that was back in 2013.
‘I know I’m good enough to win again. It’s now just about me finding the right formula as I get to know myself better.’
Amongst his other fellow Gary Player Class professionals, Keenan Davidse heads into this week’s tournament with a top finish this season of tied ninth in the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open.
Omar Sandys earned the biggest cheque of his season when he finished tied 24th in the Lombard Insurance Classic on the Royal Swazi Sun Country Club course.
Thabang Simon has played well in two qualifiers in eSwatini this season but failed to carry that form through into the main tournaments. But he’s finished third and second on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour this season.
And Jacquin Hess finished tied 12th in the Sun City Challenge recently.
Photo: Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images