ST ANDREWS – Expect more than just a wee bit of Afrikaans to be spoken at the Home of Golf this week as no less than 26 South African professional golfers - including a Van Rooyen, a Van Zyl and a Van den Berg - are entered for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship beginning on Thursday.
Brandon Stone and Branden Grace will join three of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes – Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Thorbjorn Olesen – in the hunt for a share of the (R70m) $5-million prize fund over three great links, the famous Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Stone, of course, blitzed Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian east of Edinburgh in July this year with a brilliant, final round 60 to win the Scottish Open, while Grace opened with a sensational 60 at Kingsbarns in 2012 on his way to victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship that year.
Among the other entries for this annual Links golf spectacular are United States Ryder Cup man Brooks Koepka, the current US Open and US PGA champion, plus Major winners Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, winner of the Senior British Open in July. Top Americans Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar are also playing.
Hatton is bidding to become the first man to win the Alfred Dunhill Links trophy three straight times following his victories in 2016 and last year. Twelve months ago the Englishman shot 24-under-par to finish three shots ahead of compatriot Ross Fisher. Fisher made 11 birdies in a stunning 61 that was the lowest of over 13,300 professional rounds at the Old Course as both men entered the history books on an unforgettable afternoon.
The tournament, which raises substantial funds for charity each year, incorporates two separate competitions - an individual professional tournament and the Team Championship, in which the professionals are paired with amateur golfers, many of them well known from the world of sport, entertainment and business.
This week, for instance, a ‘super group’ of music stars, past and present, are teeing it up – among them Keane’s Tom Chaplin, Linkin Park’s Dave Farrell, Ronan Keating and Brian McFadden, former lead singer of Westlife, Mike Rutherford from Genesis, country and western star Clay Walker and popular legends Huey Lewis and Bon Jovi’s Tico Torres.
The 26 South African professionals in the line-up:
Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Erik van Rooyen, JC Ritchie, Oliver Bekker, Ockie Strydom. Louis de Jager, Jaco Ahlers, Jacques Kruyswijk, JP Strydom, Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Brandon Stone, Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester, Darren Fichardt, Ulrich van den Berg, Kyle McClatchie, Justin Walters, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Peter Karmis, Richard Sterne, Jaco van Zyl, Thomas Aiken and Zander Lombard.
African News Agency (ANA)