Johannesburg - Seventeen amateur golfers have turned professional, the South African Golf Association (SAGA) confirmed on Thursday.

"Although the Sunshine Tour School was concluded on November 28, it was only once their final 2008 Order of Merit was finalised - after the South African Open Championship - that we were advised who had won playing privileges," said SAGA president, Enver Hassen.

Jacques Blaauw, the current Glacier SA Amateur and SA strokeplay champion, gave up his amateur status last year. He won his first cheque with a 53rd-place finish in the Alfred Dunhill Championship played at Leopard Creek Country Club last year.

Riaan de Bruyn, of Central Gauteng, finished 8th in the Sunshine Tour School and in so doing earned himself exemption status. This status goes to the top eight players only and should ensure he gets into most tournaments without having to endure the arduous qualifying rounds. Blaauw also got exemption status as he finished fifth.

Cameron Johnston, who represented South Africa in the Eisenhower Trophy last year, also qualified for playing privileges. He finished well down, in 53rd position, in the Sunshine Tour School. However due to ten players dropping out of the final Tour School results, due to having earned a better ranking by the conclusion of the SA Open Championship, has enabled the Milnerton Golf Club member to take one of the last Tour cards.

Other established amateurs lost to the professional ranks included PG van Zyl, Johan du Buisson, Ruan Botha, Alphius Kelapile, Keenan Davidse, Lyle Rowe and Louis Calitz.

Full list of amateurs turning professional, in alphabetical order: Ruan Botha (Central Gauteng) Louis Calitz (Free State & Northern Cape) Keenan Davidse (Boland) Riaan de Bruyn (Central Gauteng) Dylan Docherty (Central Gauteng) Johan du Buisson (Boland) Brandon Gouveris (Central Gauteng) Wesley Horngren (Gauteng North) Renier Jansen van Rensburg (North West Province) Cameron Johnston (Western Province) Alphius Kelapile (North West Province) Keenan Paulsen (Central Gauteng) Lyle Rowe (Eastern Province) Dewald Smit (Border) Ockie Strydom (Boland) Danie van Niekerk Jnr (North West Province) PG van Zyl (Mpumalanga). - Sapa