Two former champions tee off together on Thursday in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club, and the man who won the first one, Jake Roos, might just be the man with the most to prove.
Roos, the 40-year-old veteran, has the game and the temperament to deal with whatever the Cape Town weather is likely to throw at the players in the tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the Challenge Tour, and he has the memories of the inaugural Cape Town Open to draw on when he defeated Jaco van Zyl, Mark Williams and Tyrone van Aswegen in a play-off.
While his game in 2021 has not attracted much attention, there is a steeliness about his play and a determination to take his career into a late resurgence which would validate the effort he has put in to regaining the kind of form which made him such a deadly finisher early in his career.
The strength of his character was proved by the fact that he won his first five of six Sunshine Tour titles in play-offs, and it has been tested by the fact that he subsequently lost in all five of the following play-offs in which he found himself.
The most recent heartbreak came this season, in fact, as an eagle on the first hole of a three-way play-off with Jaco Prinsloo and Daniel van Tonder put him out of contention there.
But he will take heart from the very fact that he has locked horns with two of the Sunshine Tour’s in-form players – Prinsloo has two titles, and Van Tonder has graduated into the world’s elite with a win on the European Tour which has put him inside the world’s top 100.
In addition, Roos knows he can draw on the experience of two Challenge Tour wins. In March 2014, he won the Barclays Kenya Open and earned a place on the Challenge Tour for the rest of 2014. He won a second Challenge Tour title at the Aegean Airlines Championship, Germany in July to secure his European Tour card for 2015.
Roos is teeing it up with Benjamin Follet-Smith, the Zimbabwean who won the Cape Town Open in 2019, defeating Zander Lombard and Jean-Paul Strydom by two shots. With those two past champions is the Swede Philip Eriksson, who won the Dimension Data Pro-Am in 2019.
Besides the obvious favourites like Brandon Stone, who is the 2015 Cape Town Open, Van Tonder, and Prinsloo, there is a host of other players who can logically be called contenders – or at least pretenders.
Jacques Kruyswijk won the title in 2016, as did Jaco Ahlers in 2014. Hennie du Plessis, Tristen Strydom and MJ Viljoen have been knocking on the door for ages, and could break through at any time. Veterans Darren Fichardt and Oliver Bekker have plenty in the tank and as much to prove. And there are outsiders like Sean Bradley, who knows the course like the back of his hand from watching his father Wayne coach there.
The tournament has grown into one of the best golfing events in South Africa. The winner this year could be the herald of an even brighter future for the event.
And wouldn’t it be poetic if Roos, the first champion of the tournament, is the man who ushers in a new era.