FEATURE: The future of SA golf couldn’t be brighter
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JOHANNESBURG – There is incredible depth in South African golf at the moment, led by players like Garrick Higgo who is quite possibly playing the best golf of anyone on the planet over the last month.
Higgo won two of the last three events on the European Tour in Spain, winning the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open three weeks ago and the Canary Islands Championship last week.
Having won his first European Tour event at the Open De Portugal in September last year, Higgo at the age of 21 became the fastest South African to win three tournaments on the tour. He also matched the record of Tiger Woods for the fewest number of events needed to claim three European/PGA Tour wins since 1990.
Higgo took just 26 tournaments to win three times on the European Tour. The next fastest SA player was Ernie Els, achieving the feat in 55 events. The current top-ranked SA player in the world - Louis Oosthuizen - took 170 events to win three times.
Higgo turned 22 on Tuesday, and has earned 881 654 Euros or R12.4m in his time on the European Tour. He also finds himself 51st in the world rankings, and the third-ranked SA player competing on the global fairways.
Higgo is a proud product of GolfRSA - the unified body of the South African Golf Association (Saga) and Womens Golf South Africa (WGSA), administering, operating and providing service to amateur golf in South Africa.
The GolfRSA National Squad has been funded by businessman Johann Rupert, and aims to keep the top SA players from turning professional too soon.
“We believe that by encouraging the players to stay amateur for a little longer, we can provide them with the best preparation for life as a professional golfer,” explains GolfRSA chief executive Grant Hepburn.
“And that’s where the National Squad comes in. Thanks to the generosity of Mr Rupert, we are able to provide funding, support, advice, training camps and, ultimately, playing opportunities for the best of South Africa’s young golfing talent.”
Christiaan Bezuidenhout, 26, is the SA number two at 40th in the world rankings. Bezuidenhout also a three-time European Tour event winner, including the 2020 SA Open, he too is another GolfRSA graduate and speaks glowingly about the development of the game in the Rainbow Nation.
Bezuidenhout said: “I think South Africa has a great golfing future. The Saga has great structures in place and there are many up-and-coming juniors in the country climbing the ranks.
“The Saga gives us a lot of opportunities to grow as golfers and to fulfil our potential. Through the financial assistance of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation, players like me also got the chance to compete nationally and improve.”
The next youngest SA player in the top-100 in the world rankings is Brandon Stone at 28-years-old. Stone won the 2016 SA Open, and later that year added the Alfred Dunhill title to his trophy case. The biggest win of his career came the Scottish Open in 2018, when he closed with an incredible final round 10-under par 60 to win by four.
With two more years left in his 20s, and headed in the right direction at 85th in the world rankings - the best may be yet to come for ‘Pebbles’.
Including the trio in their 20s, South Africa have a total of 10 players ranked inside the top-100 in the world who will all be teeing it up in the PGA Championship next week. The 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is also exempt for the PGA, which makes it a record 11 SA players playing in the year’s second Major.
With Oosthuizen the oldest of the local contingent at 38, and always expected to add to his 2010 Open Championship victory, it means the chances of South Africa breaking its nine-year Major drought are indeed better than ever.
African News Agency (ANA)