Since its formation in 2016, the Sunshine Tour’s Gary Player Class has come close on several occasions to producing its first champion on the Sunshine Tour. And the most recent tournament in eSwatini was another step closer to this objective.
Toto Thimba and Keenan Davidse, both members of this talent identification programme formed by the Tour and endorsed by Gary Player, finished in the top five at the Lombard Insurance Classic at the Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.
Thimba finished second only one shot behind winner Jake Redman. It was Thimba’s second runner-up finish on the Sunshine Tour in his career. Davidse took fifth place a further three shots back. It marked another important milestone in a Class of players who are determined to establish themselves on the circuit.
The Class started on a strong note when, in the 2016/17 season, Makhetha Mazibuko and Davidse both made a big impact on the main summer leg of the Sunshine Tour. Mazibuko finished second in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship that season, while Davidse finished seventh in the Joburg Open, which was co-sanctioned with the European Tour. Davidse also came close to a Sunshine Tour win when he finished second to Keith Horne in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Arabella.
Then in the 2017 South African Open at Glendower Golf Club, five of the Class’s players – Derick Petersen, Sipho Bujela, Makhetha Mazibuko, Lindani Ndwandwe and Heinrich Bruiners – all qualified for the main tournament.
And in January last year, Thimba and Musiwalo Nethunzwi both qualified for the South African Open and made the halfway cut.
Several of the Class’s golfers have already won professional tournaments on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour, a feeder tour to the main Sunshine Tour.
Jacquin Hess won the Big Easy Tour Championship on his way to the overall 2017 Order of Merit title on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour, capping a remarkable journey for a golfer who was once a product of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB).
Both Thimba and Mazibuko have also won on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour. But the Class is still waiting for its first winner on the main Sunshine Tour.
That would be a major step forward for a programme that is the final piece of a structure that starts with the SAGDB and Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF), is refined at amateur level with GolfRSA, and then seeks to culminate in the Class providing every opportunity for these golfers to make a success of their professional careers. – Michael Vlismas Media