In 2010, a 17-year-old golfer walked from the practice putting green at Oubaai Golf Estate in Herolds Bay on the Garden Route to the first tee. He was about to tee off as an invited amateur in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour. A few hours later, Brandon Stone had shot 61 and upstaged most of the Sunshine Tour pros in that field.
Sunshine Tour and European Tour campaigner Darren Fichardt was his playing partner that day.
“He played unbelievable golf. He made the course look silly,” said Fichardt.
It’s just one of the many stories that have emerged from what has possibly been South African professional golf’s most successful single series of tournaments in terms of developing new stars in the local game.
This year, the Vodacom Origins of Golf pro-am series will celebrate its 16th consecutive year on the Sunshine Tour, and it is one of the backbones of the winter schedule of the local circuit that keeps the stay-at-home professionals competing at a high level.
This year’s series includes five tournaments played from August to October.
When it first launched in 2004, a young professional by the name of Thomas Aiken had just returned from a disastrous first outing on the Challenge Tour. He had just turned professional after a stellar amateur career, but a year grinding it out alone on the Challenge Tour had shattered both his form and his confidence.
Then he won three times on the Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour that year and launched his career to become a multiple European Tour champion.
That same year, Louis Oosthuizen won his first professional title in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Arabella. That week, he met caddie Zack Rasego. They won another tournament together a few years later – The Open.
Branden Grace, Justin Harding, George Coetzee, Hennie Otto – all have a victory on the series on their golf CVs.
Last year, Zander Lombard claimed his maiden professional victory on the Sunshine Tour in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Zebula. It was the start of his drive to finish top of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit for last season. With that, Lombard will make his debut in the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player at Sun City this year.
As Jared Harvey noted when he made his breakthrough on this series in 2017: “Winning on the Vodacom Origins of Golf series is a big stepping stone because it helps getting ready for the big summer events coming up.”
And it’s opened doors in other ways as well. Each tournament includes a golf development clinic for the SA Golf Development Board golfers in the area.
Jacquin Hess knows the value of such clinics, having once been one of the young golfers attending a clinic with the pros. He went on to become a Sunshine Tour professional himself and a winner on both the Sunshine Big Easy Tour and its overall Order of Merit title.
“You know, in 2008, I watched James Kamte hitting balls on the range at a clinic. And today I’m a Sunshine Tour golfer and I am playing against him,” he said. – Michael Vlismas Media