Premier IPT preview; Gauteng North Silver Salver; SA Women’s Amateur.
Southern Cape Golf hosts the Premier Interprovincial as Garden Route golf basks in golden era
Southern Cape is one of the smaller golf unions, yet even with just 7 200 affiliated members it punches well above its weight in competitive golf and is envied for its close-knit community and sound administration. It also presides over one of the world’s most attractive and popular golf destinations, the Garden Route.
One of those spectacular new courses which have helped boost golf tourism in this part of the country, the Ernie Elsdesigned Oubaai near George, will from September 17 to 21 become the first course in the region in 45 years to host the Premier Interprovincial, being played for the 58th time.
Southern Cape was a sub-union of the Eastern Province Golf Union when in 1973 the IPT was last played at George Golf Club, a period when the old SA Golf Union was experimentally taking the tournament to smaller towns such as George, Hermanus and Phalaborwa. Southern Cape remained a sub-union until 1998 when together with Boland, Mpumalanga and Limpopo it was awarded full provincial union status under the new expansive era of the SA Golf Association.
The Southern Cape, which in its early days had just five 18-hole courses, began to be seen as a golfing destination for the first time with the development of the Fancourt resort in George in the early 1990s.The beautiful coastal terrain lent itself to visually attractive golf sites.Along came GooseValley, Pezula, Oubaai, Simola, Kingswood and Pinnacle Point, and there might have been several other courses but for the financial crisis in 2008 which shut down a number of projected golf estates.
Southern Cape will be represented in the A section of the IPT at Oubaai, and it’s a measure of how quickly their team has progressed in recent years that they will be among the favourites to win the title, something they first achieved just two years ago at Fish River Sun. This was only seven years after making their IPT debut at Durban Country Club in 2009, when they won the B section. Previously they had played in the Country Districts tournament.
The region has always had promising talent, going back to the era of John Mitchell, John Rimbault, Gary Thain, Anton Haakman and Lanny Davids, but the establishment of strong golf academies in the new millennium took that talent to the next level.The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation was first to make a mark, and then the KeNako Academy adjoining the Kingswood estate in George run by former European Tour player Roger Wessels, who has developed into one of our leading coaches. His academy supplied five of the eight members of the Southern Cape team that won the Junior Interprovincial for the first time in 2015 at Worcester.
Louis Oosthuizen, who hails from Albertinia and yet played provincial golf for Boland, has his own Louis57 Academy at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, and it has already produced the youngest SA Amateur champion in Christo Lamprecht (at Humewood in 2017), while in 16-year-old MartinVorster it has the first South African to win The Junior Open, at St Andrews.
Branden Grace, winner of last year’s Nedbank Challenge, is another Southern Cape graduate, having come through the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation.
However, the biggest accolade for the union came in June, when Jovan Rebula, 20-year-old nephew of Ernie Els, won the British Amateur at Royal Aberdeen, just the second South African to do so. Rebula grew up in George and captained the winning Junior IPT team in 2015 before departing for America on a golf scholarship to Auburn University.
The Southern Cape GU now has 26 courses under its administration, seven of which rank in the top 30 of Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses.
“When I joined the union in 2002 our financial report was a one-page document written in pencil! Now it’s a 30-page Excel spreadsheet,” says Tannah Harris, SCGU president since 2005 and introduced to golf administration by Southern Cape golfing stalwart Harry Wesson.“The biggest plus for us is the friendship that exists between our clubs. Everyone works for the benefit of golf and we now have four full-time staff members at our offices at George GC.
“We take politics out of the game; our representative teams are selected on an order of merit basis so there is no grey area. Our director of golf Billy Valentyn (a talented golfer himself who lost in the
nal of the 2004 SA Amateur at Paarl) has been approached by three other unions, seeking our advice on how we run things in the Southern Cape.
“I told Billy he should absolutely help out with advice and insight where possible — it’s all about getting more people to play the game.”
When the SAGA asked Harris to provide a shortlist of courses that might be available to host the Premier IPT, he responded with the full list of 18-holers, such is the willingness of clubs in the region to support the amateur game. Oubaai has already proven itself as a tournament venue on the Sunshine Tour, and hosted the Mid-Amateur IPT last year. It has excellent practice facilities, and a hotel on site at which the players and o cials will stay.
The host union will eld a powerful lineup at Oubaai in their attempt to regain the IPT crown.Valentyn will again manage the team that features Lamprecht andVorster, with seasoned IPT veterans Nicholas Mitchell and Ivan Williams the captain and vice-captain respectively.The other four players are 2017 SA Amateur
nalist Caylum Boon, Carlo Heunis, Hans-Jurie Human and 17-year-old junior Ben van Wyk.
Defending champions Central Gauteng have won three of the last four IPTs but at the time of going to print were likely to include only two members of their winning team from Bryanston last year — Ryan Dreyer and captain Darin de Smidt.
KwaZulu-Natal’s chances were dealt a blow when SA international Matt Saulez withdrew in order to compete in the rst stage of the European Tour Qualifying School. KZN should still contend for honours with a team which includes Malcolm Mitchell, Clayton Mans eld, the evergreen Gavin Sole and SA MidAmateur champion Derek Scullard.
Western Province, after su ering the ignominy of relegation from the A section last year at Bryanston, will be playing in the B Section for the
rst time in 35 years and should have enough repower to bounce straight back up, particularly if it’s a breezy week at Oubaai.
Southern Cape team, from left: Sheila Fraser (secretary/finance), Billy Valentyn (director of golf), Heinrich Lourens (assistant director), Lindy Murray (golf coordinator).
SCGU president Tannah Harris.