South Africa’s Shaun Norris is united with his countrymen in their quest to make sure the trophy of the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg remains on home soil. But he also has another even stronger motivation to win his national Open this week. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo
South Africa’s Shaun Norris is united with his countrymen in their quest to make sure the trophy of the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg remains on home soil. But he also has another even stronger motivation to win his national Open this week.

“As always, I’ll be playing for my dad,” says Norris, whose father Patrick died in July last year after a long battle with cancer.

“It was a big battle from the start of last year. It was hard to leave him and play tournaments, but he was the one who constantly told me to go and play. He didn’t want me to stay at home just for him. I made sure I did what he wanted me to do. That was his wish. I did it all for him,” he said of his strong performance on the Japan Golf Tour last year, where he finished second on the final Order of Merit with a win and nine top-10s.

It’s a performance that has helped him come into this week at Randpark Golf Club as the third highest ranked South African on the Official World Golf Ranking in 59th place behind Erik van Rooyen and defending champion and new Player Host, Louis Oosthuizen.

“The year worked out nicely at the end there. Finishing the year off like I did, I’m sure my dad would’ve been proud. It also helped having my brother Kyle caddie for me after my dad passed away. I felt I needed family around me. It felt like I was carrying so much on my shoulders and I couldn’t talk to anybody. When you lose a family member, it’s hard to talk about it with anybody else but family. It was nice to have Kyle there and have a shoulder to lean on.”

Norris joins a strong South African contingent that also includes Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Brandon Stone, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Zander Lombard and Justin Harding.

Stone’s motivation to win this week was staring him in the face as soon as he arrived at Randpark Golf Club.

“It’s nice arriving and seeing your reserved parking spot as a former champion. That’s when the butterflies start going in your stomach. The South African Open will always be the fifth Major for South African golfers. I’ve got my replica trophy at home and I see it all the time. But I don’t want that to be the only one of these that I win. My quest is on for the second one.”

And Bezuidenhout’s desire to win his national Open, which he came close to doing when he finished second in 2016, is ever increasing, particularly after a strong 2019 on the European Tour in which he claimed his first title there.

“The South African Open has always been a special tournament for us South Africans and everybody wants to win it. I’ve always wanted to win it, and that will never change until I do.”

The championship tees off tomorrow and for the first two rounds will be played on both the Firethorn and Bushwillow courses at Randpark. The final two rounds will be played solely on the Firethorn course.

Michael Vlismas