Brandon Stone is hoping that the local crowds will serve as the 15th club in the bag as he goes in search of a much-idolised trophy in Sun City this week.
When he was a youngster of five or six, Stone was among those chasing after signatures of their favourite players during the week of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
A few years later and on his third appearance in the tournament the local fans call ‘the million-dollar tournament’, Stone returns home a multiple winner on the European Tour and now with his signature in hot demand. This is a big week and Stone, a big player in his own right, knows a big performance in Sun City this week has life-changing implications.
‘Whenever we South Africans play on home soil, we’re always supported so well,’ says Stone, who claimed the Scottish Open – a Rolex Series event.
‘The South African golfing community is so strong and so supportive. We’ve got Louis [Oosthuizen], Georgie [Coetzee], myself, Burmy [Dean Burmester], Charl [Schwartzel], everyone is out here this week, fighting for that crystal trophy like Gracie did last year.’
In a field boasting the best international and local talent in golf, Stone knows a high-level performance is the only requirement if he is to emulate greats such as Ernie Els, Nick Price and Sir Nick Faldo among others in getting his name on the trophy.
‘The game is progressing nicely,’ he said of the feeling of his own game, having missed only two cuts in his last 10 outings in Europe.
‘I had great ball striking last week but I putted like a chop so I am trying to work on that a little bit. But the course looks in great nick and hopefully we play up to the gallery and entertain the fans.’
No doubt that Stone has been in good form for a long while and lying 19th on the Race to Dubai, the reigning Scottish Open champion knows that two solid finishes at the Gary Player Country Club and another at Jumeirah Golf Estates next week will give him a real opportunity to be in the bonus pool for the leading 10 players in the Race to Dubai.
For Stone, little motivation is needed heading to Sun City because, apart from a long-held dream of being among those whose names get etched into the history of the crystal trophy, winning ‘Africa’s Major’ ranks as high as winning the South African Open Championship, a feeling he knows very well.
He will hope to be the one who dethrones Branden Grace this week while keeping the title on South African soil.
Credit: Sunshine Tour