JOHANNESBURG – There may be higher ranked golfers and more recognisable names in the field of 240 players teeing it up at the SA Open at Randpark from Thursday, but Erik van Rooyen could just be the surprise packet this week.
The European Tour’s 2018 Graduate of the Year enjoyed a stellar breakthrough campaign which saw him finish 38th in the Race to Dubai standings, 11 places better than his nearest rival for the award.
He follows Nacho Alvira, Byeong Hun An, Brooks Koepka, and compatriots Dylan Frittelli and Justin Walters as recipients of the prize - awarded to the top-ranked player to have graduated from the European Challenge Tour the previous year.
Following his runner-up finish to maiden European Tour winner at last year’s Joburg Open, Shubhankar Sharma - at the same venue where this week’s tournament is being played - Van Rooyen finished 10th at the Tshwane Open at the beginning of March and then finished in a tie for seventh at the Trophee Hassan II championship in Morocco.
In July at the Irish Open, Van Rooyen banked his biggest cheque of the year after finishing in a tie for fourth and two weeks later he finished in a tie for 17th at the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie - his maiden outing in a Major.