The Sunshine Tour is at Selborne Golf Estate this week for the fourth tournament in the 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf series.
It’s the second of three tournaments in a row on South Africa’s eastern seaboard after last week’s visit to the Wild Coast Sun and ahead of next week’s tournament at Mount Edgecombe. It’s also the last in the Vodacom series ahead of the finale which will be played at Simola in Knysna at the end of the month.
It’s a big tournament in the context of the local season as the schedule moves quickly towards the big-money ‘summer’ events starting with the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the end of November.
Peter Karmis won the title in 2018 by four strokes at 14 under par but he won’t be in the field to defend his title this year.
Attention will then be on the candidates to replace him on the podium. Ruan de Smidt has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, as well as real form on the BIG IGT tour with a victory on that circuit in September showing he is getting back to the kind of form which made him a winner in his rookie season on the Sunshine Tour in 2012.
His share of second in last week’s Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge came despite a closing double-bogey, without which he would have been just two shots off the lead, instead of four. His first two rounds at the Wild Coast consisted of a pair of 65s, and they showed his recent penchant for going low.
He is beginning to show the kind of form which brought him two titles in 2016, including his last one on the Sunshine Tour at Humewood in October that year.
Hennie du Plessis made a comeback from a lengthy lay-off for a wrist injury in last week’s Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge, and he immediately performed with his opening round of six-under-par 66.
Even more impressive, he finished strongly in windy conditions with a two-under 68 to have a share of second place, making him look every inch the kind of player who took his maiden title in October 2017 in a thrilling playoff victory over Ockie Strydom.
Colin Nel is from KwaZulu-Natal and, while he has had a curtailed season with only three starts and only a single cut made last week, he does have the memories of a rare 59 in the 2013 Nelson Mandela Championship at Mount Edgecombe – albeit it on a course that was altered and shortened because of rain damage, reduced to a par 70 because of a waterlogged fifth fairway, and using preferred lies.
Nel does have the memories of his single victory on the Sunshine Tour which came at the Wild Coast in 2014, and three top 10s as recently as 2018 which can motivate him to perform well in familiar surroundings.
While a win for him seems unlikely, it would be a popular one.
Photo: Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images