The R2-million Stella Artois Players Championship couldn’t come at a more important time for Sunshine Tour professionals with dreams of greatness, particularly US Open greatness.
The second edition of this tournament, which tees off at Dainfern Golf Estate on Thursday, is the penultimate event of the Sunshine Tour’s 2021-22 season.
The current season ends with The Tour Championship next week, and the No 1 golfer on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit at the end of the season will receive an exemption to play in the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts in June.
At the moment, Shaun Norris comfortably leads the way on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit following his victory in the Steyn City Championship in March and will be hard to catch.
But with Norris not in the field this week, and depending on whether he tees it up in these next two tournaments and the similar movements of his nearest rivals Dean Burmester, Thriston Lawrence and Oliver Bekker, the chase for that No 1 spot and a US Open ticket could be an interesting one.
Multiple DP World Tour champion George Coetzee adds to the strength of the field this week, which includes seven of the top-20 players on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
Jaco Prinsloo returns as the defending champion at Dainfern this week following his playoff victory last year over Jake Roos and Daniel van Tonder, which went to three extra holes.
The win capped a golden few weeks for Prinsloo as he won twice in three starts on the Sunshine Tour. He also returns to a Dainfern course where he won the Gauteng Team Championship in 2020 with partner JC Ritchie.
“I love this golf course and the whole atmosphere here. This course gives you opportunities,” said Prinsloo.