Dylan Frittelli rose to fame on the golf course in 2017. Photo: Sunshine Tour
Here are my 10 memorable highlights on the fairways of the world in 2017, mainly involving South African golfers:

1: I’m at Carnoustie, watching super-friendly surfing legend Kelly Slater partner Dylan Frittelli in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Slater, now 45, was world surfing champion a record 11 times. And he’s golf crazy, and golf good, playing off scratch. He says: “Surfing and golf are a lot different; one super fast, one super slow, but similar too in that there’s that massive fear factor in both ... in surfing it’s big-time physical fear, in golf big-time mental fear.” I know the feeling.

2: Feeling chipper. This was Frittelli in the third round of the big-money Turkish Airlines Open. I was chuffed to see him chip in once for birdie, once for eagle. He shoots 66 and ultimately finishes second, one behind Justin Rose. He also wins twice on the European Tour in 2017. A superb ball-striker, he has Gary Player-like grit and dedication.

3: Okay it’s a cliché now, but Amazing Grace! Major golf for men has been played since way back in 1860 but in all the intervening years no-one had shot any better than 63 in a Major until our own Branden Grace blitzed Royal Birkdale with a 62 in last year’s Open won by Jordan Spieth. Grace: “My caddie Zach (Rasego) says ‘Congrats, you’re in the history books’. I had no idea.”

4: One-leg wonders: “The other competitors (in the able-bodied state opens in the US) look at me in my golf cart with my prosthetic leg and roll their eyes and you know they’re thinking ‘What is this guy doing here?’ And I’m like, what do want to play for dude? Because I’m going to kick your damn butt.” - Kenny Bontz, who with partner Chad Pfeifer won the World Cup of Disabled Golf for the United States at King David Mowbray. Pfeifer, who lost a leg in the Iraq war, won the individual title in the 54-hole SA Disabled Open that same week on four-under-par 212. Man, these guys can play.

5: Rory, Rory, Rory go Rory Rory glory! They yelled and they screamed and they hollered. All week long the thousands of folks behind the ropes were in a frenzy. Bringing a big star like Rory McIlroy out for the SA Open at Glendower saw fans lining the fairways all the way from tee to green, even when he was on dawn patrol at around 7am in round one.

Branden Grace won the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. Photo: @golfatsun via Twitter

6: “Hello, I’m Tiger.” “Nice to meet you, but I’m the original Tiger.” - Tiger Lekhulene when he first met Tiger Woods. Randpark’s legendary caddie Lekhulene, who looped for Nick Price when he was world No 1 before Woods was a household name, was invited by Price to the Presidents Cup last year to be the International Team’s Caddies’ Captain.

7: Ash making cash. Phone Ashleigh Buhai (formerly Simon) and you get a voice message: “Hi it’s Ash, I’m on the golf course making cash.” And she did just that in 2017. On the Sunshine Ladies Tour, in nine starts, she had three wins and four seconds. On the LPGA Tour in America she rolled in a barrel-load of birdies to earn the equivalent of a hefty R5-million.

8: I was delighted to witness Dean Burmester ripping enormous 400-yard drives down the middle, and Haydn ‘Mr Cool’ Porteous become a really smooth operator on the golf course. Both recorded European Tour victories, boomer Burmester for the first time.

9: Course jester to the last. Before an ill Simon Hobday passed away in March last year aged 76, Tony Johnstone gave him a call saying he’d like to come and see him. Hobbers: “Of course you can Tony, but you’d better come now! I haven’t got much time left!”

10: Putt of the year: It has to be Grace’s monster 40-footer for a two at Sun City’s par-3 16th on his way to a stunning final round 66 and a one-shot victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge on 11-under 277.

Cape Times

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