PMB trio in the mix to break into Sunshine Tour

2010-11-30 00:00

WHILE all the media attention this week will be on the 12 superstars gunning for the 30th Nedbank Challenge at Sun City, 260 relative unknowns will be scrambling for just 30 priceless 2011 Tour cards from today.

The Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School is the golfing equivalent of the matric exam — and the knees buckle just as rapidly as the hands shake when one is sweating over a maths problem.

The golfing hopefuls who have descended on Bloemfontein will be crunching different kinds of numbers as they seek to join the paid ranks for next year.

The Pietermaritzburg flag will be flown by three players this year, and all have taken contrasting routes to get to this stage.

Colin Nel secured a playing card last year, but is out to secure one with more playing privileges.

His debut season was seriously hampered by having to pre-qualify for most tournaments.

Even with a card, some players have to go through the stresses of pre-qualifying ahead of every event — and that can be more draining than the actual tournament!

Nel is joined by amateur star Christiaan van der Merwe, who spent last week practising in Pretoria before heading for Bloemfontein over the weekend.

Van der Merwe was a member of the KZN inter-provincial side that won the national title last year, and has always earmarked this year as the time he would like to turn pro.

The third member of the Maritzburg arsenal is Andy Britnell, a member at Maritzburg Golf Club who has shown marked improvement over the last year, although he hasn’t gone the conventional route to reach this point.

The levels of anxiety that come with getting so close to these players’ dreams is also compounded by the steep fee required to enter the final fling.

That’s R5 750, to be precise, and that is as much to discourage time-wasters as it is to steel the determination of the 260 who will set off this morning on two layouts, Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park Golf Club.

Though not long or beastly, the courses are protected by trees, so good driving is a must.

But with receptive greens after rain over the last week, there could be some low numbers if the putts start rolling in.

All players will have two rounds on each course, and the top 70 will then have a final, decisive round on the Bloemfontein track to sort the men from the boys.

And it is not just South Africans, as the Sunshine Tour’s standing attracts prospective members from Asia, South America, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

Expect plenty of tears from those who fall at this late hurdle, and a fair few beers for those who make it to the big time.

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