Another year of the Els for Autism series of golf days has come to an end and Compleat Golfer was there every step of the way.
The year-long Drive to the SA Open culminated in the two-day final at Highland Gate, where friends Karl Straszacker and Bobby Woodbourne emerged victorious.
Keeping calm in trying conditions was the recipe for success at the highly anticipated final series which was hit by terrible weather. Play was halted on the first day as the field struggled with the persistent downpour, but one pair’s cool reserve elevated them to the top.
Qualifiers from the Pearl Valley day, Straszacker (below, left) and his 85-year-old partner Woodbourne (centre) made eight three-pointers in a row to steal a march on the field.
‘I kept telling Uncle Bobby to take it easy and stay patient,’ Straszacker tells Compleat Golfer after their victory.
‘I knew they were going to call us off, so it was about managing our way around the course before they did. If I was on the green and could score, I wouldn’t even let Bobby out of the cart. I wanted to keep him fresh and it kinda worked.’
But it was far from a one-man team, insists Straszacker, who was cut two shots to a 12 for the final day. ‘Whenever we were in trouble, he bailed us out, especially on holes where he double-stroked. It was tough playing 27 holes on the second day, but we kept plodding along and tried not to get too far ahead of ourselves.’
Straszacker was delighted to top the standings because it meant the world to Woodbourne, with the pair planning their assault on the SA Open Pro-Am and set for spending some time with the tournament host, The Big Easy.
‘I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Ernie, but I know Uncle Bobby is over the moon. We’ve never played on such a big stage, but it’s all about having fun,’ says Straszacker.
He adds that he is unlikely to change much in the buildup to the pro-am, but he can’t say the same for his partner. ‘There’s no stopping him. I’m sure he will keep the body loose and hit his fair share of putts between now and then,’ he says with a laugh.
A NOTE FROM ERNIE
After 15 events around South Africa, our 2017 Drive to the SA Open series reached its conclusion with the grand finale at Highland Gate, a layout that is a proudly Ernie Els Design. It sounded like it was an eventful day, with some seriously wild weather. Four of the players – Eben Kruger, Francois de Jager, Paul Janse van Rensburg and his son Paul Jnr – even got struck by lightning! I’m not sure they signed up for that, but I was pleased to hear they were fine after the incident.
Even though there were some rain delays on day one, everyone made the best of it and then enjoyed a fantastic night, hosted by Dan Nicholl and Nico van Rensburg. The previous day’s rain and delays meant the field was out early to get in 27 holes to decide the winners. Big congrats to Bobby Woodbourne – still playing nicely at the age of 85 – and his partner Karl Straszacker who, with their win, booked a place at the BMW SA Open Pro-Am in January. I’ll see you guys there!
It’s been a very successful series and I send my thanks to everyone who took part in the 15 regional events and to the golf clubs that hosted us so well. Thank you to our sponsors and to my old friend Nico, who ran the show.
In 2018 the grand finale is moving to Sun City and will be played the week before the Nedbank Golf Challenge, so that’s going to be amazing.
We also welcome new sponsors Sun International and Imperial KWS Logistics. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever.
We hope you’ll be able to joinus at one of the events, so stay glued for more information on the schedule.
– By Wade Pretorius
– This article first appeared in the January issue of Compleat Golfer
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