European Tour

European Tour SA Swing tees off with Joburg Open

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Shubhankar Sharma
Shubhankar Sharma
PA/Supplied

The South African Swing tees off in earnest on Thursday as the Joburg Open marks the start of a three-week run of tournaments co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour, and with it comes a sense of opportunity for the players.

The Joburg Open provided the European Tour breakthrough for South Africa’s Branden Grace, George Coetzee and Haydn Porteous as well as India’s Shubhankar Sharma, and its return to the international schedule has been welcomed as a timely boost in a challenging year.

“It’s always nice to come back and see your name on tournament boards and so on. It’s been a tough year, and to see my name as a past champion and be able to reflect back on what was a really good start to my career is great,” said 2016 Joburg Open champion Haydn Porteous.

“It feels like it was yesterday,” said Sharma as he reflected on his victory in the last Joburg Open in 2017. “That’s where it all started for me. I had my second European Tour win shortly after that, so I have fond memories of this tournament.”

Scotland’s David Drysdale finished third in the 2012 Joburg Open, and in the greater context of what 2020 represents, he’s equally grateful to be back playing a tournament he wasn’t sure would go ahead.

“It’s so good to be back here. A few months ago we thought we wouldn’t be coming down to South Africa. It’s just brilliant to be here.”

Young South African Dylan Naidoo was still a junior golfer when he came to watch the 2016 Joburg Open that Porteous won. This week, he tees it up as a professional in this field, and is well aware of the boost this event could give his career.

“It’s a special tournament for me. I received an invitation to play in it when I’d just turned 17 and was still an amateur. I was quite surprised at the time. I have a lot of good memories from here and those are what are fuelling me now. The fact that the field is smaller than what it’s been in the past, and that we are only playing one golf course in Firethorn excites me in terms of the chances it gives me.”

There will be a similar sense of possibility in the mind of Makhetha Mazibuko. As one of the Sunshine Tour’s historically-disadvantaged golfers, Mazibuko was able to pre-qualify for this week’s Joburg Open. In 2017, Mazibuko went head-to-head with Erik van Rooyen and Dylan Frittelli for the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, which Van Rooyen went on to win.

As Van Rooyen moved on to win on the European Tour, and Frittelli to win on the European Tour, PGA Tour and achieve a recent tied fifth at The Masters, Mazibuko will know just how much this week can change his own career.

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