Playing a tournament at Sishen Golf Club is something all Sunshine Tour professionals look forward to, and the tour returns there this week with Ockie Strydom in the field. He is the last man to have won there.
The 54-hole event with a purse of R1-million tees off on Thursday on a course which is ranked 17th-best in South Africa with a field of 104 players in action from 15 countries.
It was an emotional victory for Strydom, his first on the Sunshine Tour after being runner-up nearly a dozen times before he marched to a commanding six-stroke victory over Thristen Lawrence, two years ago almost to the day in August 2019.
It was sweet revenge for a dramatic play-off loss to Hennie du Plessis two years earlier after the two had duked it out for four holes before Du Plessis holed a miracle putt on 18 to seal the win and consign Strydom to his eighth runner-up spot at that stage in his career.
Strydom had to endure yet another runner-up finish just six weeks after his victory, when a closing 64 at Selborne Golf Estate was not enough to stop Jaco Ahlers winning by two.
In the opening Vodacom Origins event in 2021, Strydom had yet another good tournament, finishing fourth behind winner George Coetzee at De Zalze for his best performance of 2021 and his third top-10 finish this year.
Somehow, more often than not, Strydom seems to find a way to get into contention, so it would not be surprising to see him being part of the conversation during the concluding round on Saturday, which will be televised live from 8am on SuperSport channel 213.
Of course, Strydom is just one of many players who could challenge for the title. Recent winners on the Sunshine Tour include Estiaan Conradie, Alex Haindl and Jaco Prinsloo. Conradie’s win came on his home course just a week ago, Haindl regained the form which makes him such a formidable competitor with a win in June at Sun City, and Prinsloo has won twice this year in which he is making a compelling case for some opportunities on a bigger stage.
For Strydom, however, getting back to a happy hunting ground is an opportunity to put five missed cuts this year behind him, and to make his way around a course where he knows he can win.