SUNSHINE TOUR REVIEW
George Coetzee is again No 1.
Victory in the Tshwane Open clinched another Order of Merit title for George Coetzee on the Sunshine Tour. Coetzee claimed his first Sid Brews Trophy in 2015, and his continued support for the tour means that he could win a few more in the years ahead. way Full he credit supports to Coetzee the Sunshine for the Tour, even now at age 31. He’s been on the European Tour since 2010 – with four wins – but always finds time to play as many home events as it takes to be eligible on the tour which gave him his grounding in the pro game. He’s played in 60 Sunshine Tour events since first becoming a member of the European Tour in 2010.
Several players were in the running for Order of Merit honours entering the co-sanctioned Tshwane Open at Pretoria CC, the tour’s penultimate event. With Mauritius Open winner Dylan Frittelli absent after an invite to the conflicting WGC event in Mexico, the door was open for others. If once again there was to be a South African winner in Pretoria, that player would likely be Order of Merit champion.
Erik van Rooyen, 28, was leading the Order of Merit on R2 million following his runner-up finish in the Joburg Open, with J C Ritchie his closest pursuer. Coetzee was way behind them, on R560 000, but first prize in the Tshwane Open was worth R2.38 million. BothVan Rooyen and Ritchie played well at Pretoria CC, but Coetzee is tough to beat on his home course, and shot 67-64-68-67 to win by two. He’s now won the title twice since it returned to PCC, both times with scores of 266.
Ritchie, 24, was the surprise performer on the 2017/18 SunshineTour. Another Pretoria product, like Coetzee, he won the opening event of the 25-tournament season, the Zimba- bwe Open, and a third-place finish in the BMW SA Open at Glendower, where he shot 65-65 at the weekend, drove him to No 3 on the Order of Merit. Quite a climb from No 44 in 2016/17. The Zimbabwe Open at Royal Harare could not have started any more discouragingly for Ritchie. His opening tee shot went out of bounds, as did his next one. He opened with a 9 and was seven-over through seven holes. He was looking at his sixth consecutive missed cut of the year. Determination and a fortunate hole-out with a 6-iron for an eagle
two saw him recover to shoot 74. He then went 18-under the next three rounds to tie Trevor Fisher and beat him in a playoff.
Ritchie is a graduate of the IGT Tour, rather than the amateur circuit, and it took him two attempts at Q School to get his card on the Sunshine Tour.
There were best seasons, too, for veterans Shaun Norris and Jaco Ahlers, both 35, and Ockie Strydom, 33. Norris, thanks to a T-3 in the Joburg Open, had his first Order of Merit top 10, while Ahlers finished ninth with R1.14 million.The last five seasons he had ranked between 13 and 18.
Ahlers is a late bloomer, with four of his six wins coming in the last two years.Victory in the DiData Pro-Am was his biggest accomplishment to date, particularly closing with a 64 at Fancourt, eclipsing his 2014 Cape Town Open triumph. It earns him a spot in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on the PGA Tour in August.
Strydom had his first million-rand season, making 20 cuts in 22 events. He is still looking for a first win, though, having been a runner-up 9 times, including four in 2017. Strydom had the most birdies, averaging 4.78 a round. In eight events he had at least 20 birdies – 25 in the Zambia Open. Unsurprisingly, he headed the putting stats, with 27.8 per round.
George Coetzee on his way to victory in the Tshwane Open at Pretoria CC.