In the latest print magazine, Compleat Golfer’s playing editor Brandon Stone pays tribute to some brilliant performances by local golfers on the Tours.
*This column appears in the June print issue of Compleat Golfer
I find myself writing this column with a tremendous amount of pleasure. As you know I managed to punch my ticket back into the winner’s circle at the Limpopo Championship, marking my first win since 2018. While this is something I’m very proud of, it only makes up around 13% of my overall level of pride.
In April and May South African professional golfers achieved something incredible. We managed to capture eight European and Challenge Tour victories in only six weeks. I want to give my reaction to all those victories and hopefully help shed light on how impressive they truly are.
We open with Justin Harding’s win at the Kenya Open, effectively starting this string of South African dominance. Justin’s story has been well documented over the past few years, having dominated the Sunshine Tour before capturing titles all over the world and entering the world’s top 50. So when he returned to the podium in April it seemed as if the short-game specialist was back and 2021 could be his best season yet.
The following week saw one of the Sunshine Tours elite make his breakthrough into Europe. That being one Daniel van Tonder at the Savannah Classic. I’m confident in saying there is not a harder working golfer in South Africa. The only thing more impressive than his work ethic is his determination, grit and self-confidence. He’s been on the fringes for a few years, so with this breakthrough the sky truly is the limit for the ever-cheerful man from Joburg.
After back-to-back wins on the European Tour the South African golfing community was buzzing. No one could guess the trend that Justin and Danie began.
After a week in Austria the European Tour made its way to the Spanish Islands, setting up a three-week stint of beautiful beaches and low-scoring events.
The first tournament, the Gran Canaria Open, was dominated by young Garrick Higgo, simply blowing away the field and claiming his second European Tour title.
He would then go and show his class once again a couple of weeks later at the Canary Islands Championship, capturing his third title and shattering the record of quickest South African player to capture three titles, taking only 40 starts. That’s a staggering achievement.
It also catapulted him to 51st in the world. There is no limit to the lefty’s potential and this is only the beginning for the young man.
Splitting Garrick’s two victories was an impressive performance by Dean Burmester in Tenerife. It was Dean’s first European Tour victory on foreign soil, and you could see the emotion on his face when the final putt went in.
I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Dean, so when I say he’s an ever better person than he is a golfer I truly mean that. I found myself overcome with emotion while watching him dominate the field because I know how good this man is. This win is only the beginning and I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2021 has in store for Burmy.
We then shift focus to the Challenge and Sunshine Tour events back at home.
My victory at Limpopo was monumental for me. It got the monkey off my back. It was the first time I’ve won a playoff as a professional and when I tell you I was nervous, it is the understatement of the year.
I found myself up against the Sunshine Tour’s finest in Hennie du Plessis, Oliver Bekker and Danie van Tonder. I managed to deliver a perfect hole and capture the title, my first on the Challenge Tour, which is something I’ve always wanted to achieve.
Let’s hope this is only the beginning for me and my 2021 season.
After Limpopo we went to Cape Town. JC Ritchie put together a stellar performance, claiming victory after another playoff. But there is a sense that this victory will help catapult the young man towards the European Tour. I have no doubt we will see him join the already impressive contingent of South Africans on the European Tour.
The final victory during this impressive stint came at the Dimension Data at Fancourt. While this event might have been quite odd without the pro-am format, it itself was as good as ever.
We saw a breakthrough win for the Bloemfontein Bomber Wilco Nienaber. The young man’s potential has been there for all to see for a couple years. To see him get over the line, and through a playoff, shows his class.
This victory is only the beginning for what I believe will be a long and prosperous career for the humble boy from Grey College.
To my knowledge, there has never been a more dominant six-week stretch by a nation that isn’t the US of A. South Africans now make up 10% of the world’s top-100 players. So take a moment to give recognition to those who flew the flag high and let’s get behind the boys for the rest of 2021. It’s our time, boys and girls …