The new year presents many with opportunities to strengthen their resolve in the pursuit of their dreams, and for the 59 players – pros and amateurs – who competed in the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament Qualifier at Observatory Golf Club from Tuesday to Wednesday, this statement rings truest.
The qualifier provides many benefits to players, such as giving young and inexperienced players the chance to tee it up alongside seasoned veterans, and learn first-hand what it takes to succeed at the highest levels. However, while such experiences can prove beneficial, the ultimate goal is clear: A Sunshine Tour playing card for the 2023/2024 season. This for many is the start of that journey, with the top 30 players from this qualifier earning a spot in the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament, where they will compete for a spot on the Sunshine Tour.
After two days of play, it is amateur South African Golf Development Board’s TJ Sandys who finished top of the qualifiers after an even-par 36 holes of golf.
The race began in earnest on Tuesday. 22-year-old Ebotse Golf Links player, Khanya Mkhize was quick off the mark on day one, carding a 71 to take the early clubhouse lead. Then it was the aforementioned Sandys who presented another under-par score as he also signed for a 71. But it was Observatory Golf Club member, Umar Davids, whose five-under-par 67 earned him the top spot after day one, who impressed the most in round one.
Mabilane, a former Sunshine Tour campaigner, also played solid golf and would have been satisfied to finish level-par and within reach of the leading Davids.
In a field consisting of 45 amateurs and just 13 professionals – all players of colour – the Sunshine Tour’s express objective of creating playing opportunities and access to golf for previously disadvantaged players was on full display.
“The Vusi Ngubeni Tournament is extremely important to the Sunshine Tour because of the passion for the sport and the work that the late Vusi Ngubeni did in golf,” said Sunshine Tour tournament director, Ludwick Manyama. “This is another platform which allows for greater inclusion in the sport and which prepares the inexperienced golfers for serious competition because they compete against professionals here.
“It’s also important to see young players from the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) prove themselves and young TJ Sandys did that this week. The Sunshine Tour will continue to find avenues to help our transformation agenda achieve its targets and the Vusi Ngubeni Tournament is one of those avenues.”
Motivated by the presence of his father and Sunshine Tour veteran, Omar, the young Sandys looked assured in the second and final round as he stepped onto the tee box en route to a 73 which saw him finish the tournament on level-par and top of the qualifiers. His effort saw him finish two shots clear of Nash de Klerk who totalled two-over this week.
“It was a good week and I think I played well,” said Sandys who tied seventh in the Nomads Inland National Order of Merit event held at ERPM Golf Club just last week. “It’s a good experience for me and that is what the whole idea was. I wanted to test myself against some of the best players and gain experience so that one day when I turn pro, I have had a taste of what to expect. I am happy with the way I played this week because, at ERPM, I messed things up on the last day.”
Along with the other 25 amateurs who made it to the next stage of this tournament, Sandys will be hoping for an even more impressive showing when the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament tees off a little later this season.
The Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament is open to transformation players, who are male and over the age of 18 at the commencement of the tournament. Transformation players are defined as Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, and Chinese who arrived in South Africa before 1994.
Players who qualified:
TJ Sandys, Nash de Klerk, Umar Davids, Khanya Mkhize, Kayle Wykes, Sabelo Majola, Jabulane Mabilane, Lyle Pedro, Shaheed Patel, Bazil Coenraad, Amaan Flashman, Sandi Qhena, Karabo Mogadime, Cark Mwale, Shakeel Kalideen, Sizwe Maphanga, Sifiso Kunene, Thabiso Magwaza, Alee Solomons, Songz Sonamzi, Kamalan Munsamy, Sinekhaya Lucas, Mahmood Flashman, Neo Mokgatle, Thabo Phetoane, Bongukwenza Dlamini, Bulelani Nyembezi, Ashwin Krishen, Austin Mashego, Londa Mngadi and Sobantu Sibandze
By Matthews Mfubu (Fullpage Media and Communications)