Class of 2017 golfers eye big swings

FLY:  Musiwalo Nethunzwi wants to make his mark. (Johan Rynners, Sunshine Tour, Gallo Images)
FLY: Musiwalo Nethunzwi wants to make his mark. (Johan Rynners, Sunshine Tour, Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Gary Player Class of 2017 chief executive officer Theo Manyama is pleased with how the programme is benefiting previously disadvantaged professional golfers.

Manyama believes the programme is about to yield positive results in ensuring that players get to compete in more Sunshine Tour tournaments and raise their profiles and quality of play.

The Sunshine Tour development initiative was established with a squad of 30 players last year.

Did not make the cut

“This year, we have about 23 players for whom we cater to play in every event sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour. We also pay for them to compete in the IGT Challenge Tour, which is expensive at R1 400 per entry fee, as well as the Big Easy Tour,” said Manyama, who is one of the Sunshine Tour tournament directors. He is responsible for the class.

He was with the players when they competed at the Lombard Insurance Classic at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club in Mbabane last week. The final round was played on Friday.

“Seven players did not qualify for the class last year because they did not make the cut at the Vusi Ngubeni Qualifying School,” said Manyama.

He cited Thabang Simon and Teboho Sefatsa as two who did not make it into this year’s class. Simon (42), who is from Brakpan, turned professional in 1999, while Sefatsa (34), who is from Germiston, has been swinging his clubs professionally since 2003.

“They failed to become full members of the Sunshine Tour. We didn’t expect them to fail. They will only play in the Big Easy and IGT Pro tour tournaments. However, the Sunshine Tour is still helping them to improve their game,” said Manyama.

Manyama said great strides were being made to ensure that the class was a success.

Well on the tour

“At this stage, we have a boot camp that involves intense training for players for a week at the World of Golf in Midrand near Pretoria,” he said.

“A psychologist is actually working with the squad to get the best out of the players. This shows how serious this class is,” said Manyama.

“The players are expected to play the last event before they go into a boot camp to pick up skills before the hectic Sunshine Tour season gets under way in December”.

Makhetha Mazibuko and Keenan Davidse have done well on the tour so far. Mazibuko finished tied for second place with Dylan Frittelli at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in Eikenhof in February. Davidse has shown consistency on the course with awesome displays.

Musiwalo Nethunzwi (28) and Omar Sandys (41) said being members of the class offered them a good chance to showcase their talents.

“This is good for me because playing in this class eases my financial burden, unlike before,  as money to pay for accommodation, transport, caddies and to buy yardage books to understand the course better are being taken care of,” said the Soweto-based Nethunzwi, who represents Modderfontein Golf Club.

Nethunzwi, who turned professional in 2013, did not make it into the prequalifying round at the Classic, but said he hoped to do well in forthcoming tournaments.

Tour card

Sandys, who plays for the Oppenheimer Park Golf Club in Welkom, said: “The Class of 2017 has helped me a lot because I get to travel to tournaments. I’d like to thank the Sunshine Tour for making this event a dream come true for me because it’s a big help to some of us who were previously disadvantaged”.

Sandys finished tied for 46th place in Swaziland and said he was hoping to win and ultimately obtain a tour card to compete in Asia now that he had access to big events.

Siphiwe Siphai (26), who plays for Glendower Golf Club, is also part of the squad. He has campaigned in the paid ranks since 2015 and has yet to make a mark on the big stage. He missed the prequalifying round of the Classic.

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