The Star Late Edition

Louis’ new ray of Sunshine

On-call Oosthuizen heads into Africa Open with home in mind


THE 2012 European Tour’s internatio­nal schedule begins this week with – for different reasons – great expectatio­ns among the players competing in the € 1-million (R10,8 million) Africa Open, which is co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour and begins on Thursday at East London Golf Club.

For defending champion Louis Oosthuizen there are not only hopes of another winning start to the year, but also on his mind will be the imminent arrival of his second child as his wife Nel-mare is due any day now.

“It’s always fun defending a title so I’m just hoping that the week runs smoothly and that I don’t get a phone call from NelMare or the doctor telling me to come home!” the 2010 British Open champion is quoted as saying on the European Tour’s website.

“But, funnily enough, sometimes it’s good to have your thoughts elsewhere and not solely on the golf. Of course, I’ll be focused on what I have to do on the course but in the back of my mind I’ll always be mentally checking on what’s going on at home,” added the 29-year-old from Mossel Bay.

“Obviously, winning The Open was a dream come true for me but it was always a dream of mine as well to win a co-sanctioned tournament on The European Tour back home in South Africa. I had come close in the past at the Dunhill a few years back when Ernie won and in the SA Open the year James Kingston won, so to do it at East London last year was very satisfying. It’s a course where there are not a lot of driver holes and you should try and keep it low if you can. There are some tight fairways so you have to be care- ful, but it’s also a golf course where, if you take it on and succeed, you can really shoot low numbers. It is not a long course, it is all about position.”

Oosthuizen aside, every golfer in the line-up will no doubt have great expectatio­ns for the coming season. A win in the Africa Open brings with it exempt status on the European Tour until the end of 2014 and for those who are not already exempt for the tour that is almost priceless in a game as lucrative as profession­al golf.

One player particular­ly keen to make amends for a near-miss in the European Tour’s 2012 Qualifying School held in December will be Jean Hugo. The talented 36-year-old has been a consistent winner on the Sunshine Tour over the years – earning three victories last year as well as three in 2010 and 13 in all in his career – and desperatel­y wants to move up a level on the world stage by becoming a regular on the European Tour.

But in the ultra-competitiv­e Q-school in December – where out of 957 hopefuls only 37 players earned cards – he closed with a disappoint­ing 73 to miss out by a single shot in the 108hole marathon. Frustratin­g, yes, but that frustratio­n would quickly disappear with a win this week.

Five South Africans, however, did earn – or regain – their playing privileges at the QSchool. Branden Grace finished 11th on 14-under-par 414, Warren Abery and Darren Fichardt tied for 16th on 417, Alex Haindl was 25th on 420 and Tjaart van Walt squeezed in on 421 – one shot better than Hugo.

They will all be on the tee for Thursday’s first round in the 156-man line-up in which half the players are from the Sunshine Tour, and the other half European Tour members from all corners of the world.

 ?? PICTURE: GALLO IMAGES ?? KING OF CLUBS: Louis Oosthuizen on his way to victory in last year’s Africa Open at East London Golf Club.
PICTURE: GALLO IMAGES KING OF CLUBS: Louis Oosthuizen on his way to victory in last year’s Africa Open at East London Golf Club.

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