Defending champion Ryan van Velzen has confirmed his participation in the sixth edition of the Sunshine Tour-sanctioned Limpopo Golf Championship scheduled for the beginning of April at the Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate in Mookgopong, Limpopo.
The big question is whether the fast-rising Van Velzen can hold on to his title and emulate JC Ritchie who was a back to back champion in 2019 and 2020.The 22-year-old pro from Benoni was the star last year as he reigned supreme by a single stroke of 12 under par at the end of a difficult week of weather delays which saw the tournament being reduced to 54 holes.
He was 21 then and the victory, his maiden one on the Tour, clearly gave him more confidence as he went on to produce some brilliant performances — two of which Van Velzen won. He was victorious at the Bains Whiskey Ubunye Team Championship in August and followed up that with an impressive second-place showing in the DP World Tour-sanctioned Investec SA Open in November.
Just last week he won the Mediclinic Invitational and is sure to be hard to beat come April when he would be out to emulate JC Ritchie by winning the Limpopo event back-to-back. But Ritchie, champion in 2019 and 2020, will also be participating at the event organised by Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA) and is sure going to be one of Van Velzen’s top opposition to the R317 000 first prize of the R2m tournament kitty.
Speaking at the launch of the week-long tournament that will take place from April 1-7, with the professional event running from 4-7, the Sunshine Tour’s Thomas Abt sexpressed delight that Van Velzen was coming back.
“This tournament was Ryan’s launching pad and we commend you Limpopo Tourism Agency for making such a great event possible in this province’.
He added that, as the Sunshine Tour, they are pleased with the role they play in the sport as they help the young pros hone their skills and then go on to play in the bigger tournaments where they earn dollars.
LTA Board Chairman Andrew Dipela promised that this year’s event will be ‘bigger and better’ than the previous five.
“We are grateful that we have come this far with the tournament having been on a growth trajectory over the past five years since its inception. Our province’s growing status as a premium golf destination will once again be showcased by the Agency and the Sunshine Tour when this sixth edition tees off in April,” he beamed.
Such has been the success of the Limpopo Golf Championship that the province will this year host, through the Sunshine Tour, two other major golf tournaments — the SDC Open and the Vodacom Origins of Golf.
Most pleasing for Dipela and the LTA is the fact that in the five years it has been around, the Limpopo Golf Championship has given birth to the Limpopo Youth Championship which was introduced last year.
“We are excited about this introduction which we believe will make a positive impact on the growth of and involvement of youth golf in the province. This is exactly what we wanted Limpopo Championship to do, developing golf for the youth in the province.”
And with youthful professionals such as Van Velzen winning like he did last year and sure to be a challenger this year again, there is no doubt Limpopo youth will be inspired to take up the sport much more seriously.