The true competitiveness of South African golf was on show as Branden Grace came from behind with a magnificent final round of 62 to win the SA Open.
It proved to be a low-scoring competition from the very first round at the Randpark Golf Club on Thursday that had the projected cut on Friday being confirmed for four under.
But the scoring didn’t make this competition exciting.
It was the standard of the local talent that many people were able to witness for the very first time that made me realise the true value of the SA Open, which is also the second-oldest golf competition in the world.
Grace’s victory on the final day after beating defending champion and player-host Louis Oosthuizen, who was the clear favourite to defend his title heading into Sunday’s round, emphasised more than just another big title for him.
The competitive display that was seen from South African golfers in those four days proved that local golf is very much alive in this country and that the SA Open is the best platform for these players to compete on and showcase their talents.
Over the years the competition has become the foundation for players, both locally and even internationally, to show the rest of the world who and what they are and why people should take notice of them.
Brandon Stone announced himself with a victory in 2016, while prior to that Englishman Andy Sullivan went on a great run in 2015 after he beat Charl Schwartzel to the title at the Glendower Golf Club.
Grace was quite adamant on Friday and Sunday that he doesn’t care where the SA Open is held or how many courses he has to compete on, as long as the competition takes place, he and the other players will be there to take part.
And this past weekend we saw a young 18-year-old amateur, who goes by the name of Jayden Trey Schaper, knocking on the door, turning heads and ultimately proving to the rest of the field that South African golf is as strong as ever.
But, the true joy of this wasn’t the fact that an amateur came close to winning the SA Open for the first time in 60 odd years – it’s the fact that there were a record 11 amateurs participating.
The talent seen at Randpark, both young and old, created a positive feeling about this competition. Maybe that feeling has been there for some years now, but it was the first time I truly felt that this sport of golf is as competitive as any other sport in this country and the SA Open brought that together.
We are fortunate to have some great golf competitions in this country. The Nedbank Golf Challenge formed part of the European Tour and the Race to Dubai series a few years ago, while the Alfred Dunhill Championship has also become quite a unique competition on the circuit for players from all over the world to compete in.
Grace had won both of those competitions in the past but he became the first golfer to claim all three of the country’s biggest titles on Sunday with that victory by winning the our very own ‘Open’.
His reaction though on Sunday afternoon, as he lifted the trophy with his baby boy and wife next to him, emphasised that this victory was the real deal for him. It was a similar moment to last year when Oosthuizen hoisted the trophy for the first time, coming from a man who had already won the British Open nine years before.
The SA Open, however, might not have attracted as many famous or recognised international golfers this year but it very much opened the door for guys like Schaper, Casey Jarvis and Christo Lamprecht to play the final two rounds alongside their heros and idols, while also challenging them.