SA golfers up their swing

2011-05-14 17:01

South African golf is enjoying one of its most successful runs in history.

What with being the current holder of two ­Majors, and a total of six wins combined on the PGA Tour and ­European Tour this season.

Add to that a recent inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and the awarding of a World Golf Championship event in 2012.

This past week was another ­especially memorable one for the country.

Ernie Els was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame at a glittering ceremony in Florida where he joined Bobby Locke and Gary Player as only the third South African to be afforded this honour.

With the death of Seve ­Ballesteros only a few days ­earlier, it was Els’s good friend and Sunshine Tour chairman Johann Rupert, who recalled one of the greatest moments of the South African’s career, when he beat Ballesteros in the 1994 World Match Play Championship at Wentworth.

“In the locker room afterwards, Seve sat down next to Ernie’s dad, Neels, and said, ‘I tried very hard today. I played very well today, but your son is very special’.”

Thomas Aiken added to the celebrations with his maiden European Tour victory in the Open de Espana.

Aiken’s victory came in his 104th appearance on the ­European Tour, and justified the belief that it was only a matter of time before this ­talented player would break through on one of the biggest stages in the game.

With his win, Aiken claimed a fifth South African victory on the European Tour this season, following Els (SA Open), Louis Oosthuizen (Africa Open), and Charl Schwartzel (Joburg Open and Masters).

South Africa now has the most wins to date on the ­European Tour this season.

And on the PGA Tour, Rory Sabbatini won the Honda ­Classic in March.

Aiken also joined Dale Hayes (1971 and 1979) and Schwartzel (2007) as South Africans to win the Open de Espana.

And the next South African triumph on the European Tour will indeed be a special one as it will be the 100th for the country, with Aiken claiming the 99th South African victory in European Tour history.

Outgoing Sunshine Tour commissioner Gareth Tindall said: “We have an embarrassment of riches in our recent Major winners like Charl and Louis – and plenty of talented youngsters waiting in the wings. This trend will continue for a long time to come.” 

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