MALELANE – He’s been through the mill, and 50-year-old Ernie Els had a little advice for the European players who have graduated from the Challenge Tour and play their first European Tour event in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
The man who won the tournament in 2005 – and also memorably lost it in 2007 to England’s John Bickerton when he twice dunked his approach to the 18th in the water surrounding the green – dug into his memory banks ahead of the European Tour’s season-opener which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour.
“Back in the day, I played in some smaller European Tour events – Majorca and Santa Ponsa – and I remember those days,” said Els. “You never forget those days. You learn a lot from them.
“You see very good players playing the game. I remember watching Seve Ballesteros hitting balls on the range, and I just wanted to hang around him all week to see how he hit the ball and how he approached the game.”
Heading up the list of Challenge Tour graduates is Italy’s Francesco Laporta, who cut his teeth on the Sunshine Tour after turning professional in South Africa in 2013. Between 2013 and 2015 Laporta played full-time on the Sunshine Tour, with his best finish coming with a share of second at the 2013 Zimbabwe Open.