The Sunshine Tour has always boasted a rich stretch of summer events and the 2018-19 schedule is no different.
Yes, the Joburg Open has joined forces with the SA Open to form one major event and the Tshwane Open agreement with the sponsors sadly reached the end of its road. But there are still as many European Tour co-sanctioned events played in South Africa as there are in Australia, which is pretty amazing if you think about it.
The ‘Winter Swing’ also received a massive boost a couple of years ago, thanks to Sun International coming on board with its own series of events, alternating weeks with long-time sponsor, Vodacom, in its extremely popular ‘Origins of Golf’ series. All in all, we should be looking at playing more than 25 tournaments in this wraparound 2018-19 season.
Having competed at the Vodacom Origins at Parys Golf and Country Estate and the Sun Sibaya Classic at Mount Edgecombe Country Club, it was clear I was in need of some ‘game time’ leading up to the summer events.
The Parys estate is an absolute must-play for any level of golfer and it was in magnificent condition in October. The Vaal River meanders through 14 of its 18 holes, which will keep you on your toes. But once you find the fairways, the greens are generous, with putting surfaces on par with any top-ranked course in the country.
Rounds of 70 and 73 saw me through the cutline at Parys. However a final-round 82 – thanks mainly to a 10 on my 11th hole of the day (I’ll explain over a beer) – was far from ideal and I slipped from 15th to finish in 42nd place.
Next stop Umhlanga, for the Sun Sibaya Classic at Mount Edgecombe. I would be lying if I said my first tee shot went by without a few additional nerves, courtesy of my final-round ‘calamity’ at Parys. But once that hole was out the way (and safely recorded as a single digit), a new week had officially begun. In fact, it was almost the total opposite experience, as I made the turn in four under par and held the lead for a couple of hours on day one with an opening 67.
Day two was quieter with a 69, leaving me six off the pace (!) heading into the third and final round. With my hopes of a final-day charge off to a sluggish start, I settled into a steady day in windy conditions and eventually signed for a bogey-free 67 to finish tie-11th. Louis de Jager deservedly won the event for the second time in his career and I will happily stick my neck out and say his is a name to watch closely during the upcoming European Tour co-sanctioned events. He’s a great guy too!
As it stands I am ranked 65th on the Order of Merit, having played eight of the 17 tournaments – the main reason being setting up ‘The Pro Shop’ as part of the group’s newest franchise holders, at Royal Harare Golf Club in Zimbabwe.
Ranked in the top 50 is the best place to finish a season, as it guarantees entry into all the co-sanctioned events, while the top 100 retain playing privileges for all regular Tour events for the season. With the dust settled, our customers all loving the new space (and our engaging team), along with my business partners’ full support, the ‘Summer Swing’ and all the opportunities it presents the regular Tour players lies ahead.
Thank you for reading. Happy holidays, and if we do get a chance to share a beer over my ‘10 at Parys’ story, best we each order two!
– Sunshine Tour professional Ryan Cairns is a monthly columnist for Compleat Golfer, the latest issue is on sale now!