Johannesburg – South Africa's Dawie van der Walt will return to defend his title at the Tshwane Open later this month, event organisers announced on Tuesday.
The R23-million tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, will be staged at The Els Club Copperleaf in Centurion from February 27 to March 2.
Following a disappointing season in Europe, Van Der Walt claimed his maiden start in the prestigious Nedbank Golf Challenge in December, where he finished 24th in the expanded 30-man field.
He then claimed an emotional victory in the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban, which enabled him to overtake Darren Fichardt and win the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit in the final tournament of the year.
Now a double European Tour champion, Van Der Walt will be full of confidence as he prepares to defend his title.
“Winning once is great, but to be able to win again justifies that I can do it,” Van Der Walt said in a statement.
“I felt so confident after I won the 2013 Tshwane Open, then I went to Europe and I struggled because my expectations were high but my game wasn't quite there.
“Then I went back to America and I sprained my ankle. It put my golf swing in positions I didn't like because I was compensating for it.”
The 31 year-old from Paarl said he had to dig deep and keep pushing despite his injury woes.
“I had to keep pushing. What other choice do you have?
“This is my job. There was a lot of hard work, a lot of analysing your swing, and sleepless nights and trying to figure out where I went wrong. I was finishing last in tournaments. But I just didn't give up.”
The tournament features a quality field of South African and European professionals competing in one of the most lucrative tournaments on the local circuit.
Being the last run of seven co-sanctioned tournaments in South Africa over the summer season, South African professionals will seek to maintain their hold on these events.
Five tournaments have been won by South Africans, while the other two were won by foreigners. Denmark's Morten Orum Madsen clinched the South African Open, while Thomas Bjorn booked the Nedbank Golf Challenge title. – Sapa