Vodacom Origins celebrates with a return to St Francis Links

By Michael Vlismas – supplied to St Francis Chronicle

 The Vodacom Origins of Golf series celebrates its 10th anniversary as South Africa’s premier pro-am series with a return to St Francis Links for this year’s final.

Vodacom Origins of Golf event in action..Photo credits: Carl Fourie and Luke Walker/Sunshine Tou

Vodacom Origins of Golf event in action. Photo credits: Carl Fourie and Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour

This year’s series has been one of the most memorable as it has produced record victories and unearthed the new stars of South African golf.

Teeing off at Simola in June, the Vodacom Origins of Golf series began with a breakthrough victory by Jacques Blaauw.

Jacques Blaauw during day 3 of the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Selbourne Park Golf Club on June 28, 2013 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

Jacques Blaauw during day 3 of the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Selbourne Park Golf Club on June 28, 2013 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

With at least eight players vying for the title over the closing holes, Blaauw produced a moment of brilliance when he holed his wedge for an eagle on the par-four 16th on his way to a one-stroke victory.

“I was on the back foot and needed to play hard, so I just went at it,” he said of his closing nine holes of 31 for one of the most exciting finishes in the 10-year history of the biggest series on the Sunshine Tour.

Blaauw continued to dominate when he won the next tournament At Selborne Park Golf Club, again finishing one stroke clear of the field with an impressive final round of 64.

“This gives me huge confidence. I’m on top of the world. It’s all about gaining experience this, and I want to ride this wave as long as I can,” said Blaauw.

But at Euphoria Golf Estate in August, it was the turn of a new star to emerge.

On a cold and wet final day in the bushveld, George professional Heinrich Bruiners capped a wire-to-wire maiden victory on the Annika Sorenstam-designed layout.

It was an incredible display on a golf course that for the most part had tormented the professionals.

But not Bruiners, who had to qualify for this event and went on to finish with a 71 to win on eight-under-par, finishing five shots clear of the field.

“It feels exceptional. I’ve worked hard and I feel like it’s now paid off,” said Bruiners, who almost had his career ended by a serious car accident and has had to work his way back from that injury.

The final round also brought up a significant milestone for Port Elizabeth professional Titch Moore, who reached his 300th tournament on the Sunshine Tour.

“I’m pretty pleased that I’m still sane,” said Moore, who finished this event in a share of 23rd.

The fourth tournament on the series travelled to the Langebaan Country Estate on the West Coast, and a familiar name triumphed here.

Jean Hugo during day 1 of the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Selbourne Park Golf Club on June 26, 2013 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

Jean Hugo during day 1 of the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Selbourne Park Golf Club on 26  June, 2013 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

Jean Hugo won a record eighth title on the Vodacom Origins of Golf series with his seven-stroke victory.

Hugo equalled the achievements of Darren Fichardt and Thomas Aiken in claiming the biggest margin of victory on the series. But his eighth win put him in a class of his own as the most successful golfer in the history of this series.

“It’s always special when I tee it up in a Vodacom Origins event purely because of that feeling of achievement it gives me. I always try and prepare well for these tournaments, and I like the laid back feeling of playing and mingling with the amateurs,” Hugo said.

 Amateur Glory

 The winning amateurs from each tournament who have qualified to play alongside the professionals at St Francis will be vying for one of the ultimate prizes in golf.

The winner will be given a R75 000 budget to choose the golf trip of his dreams, anywhere in the world.

 Giving Back

 The Vodacom Origins of Golf series has a strong charity element aligned to it, beginning with the Birdies for Mama campaign.

For every birdie or eagle made by a professional or amateur on the series, the sponsor donates R200 to help improve maternal and child healthcare in South Africa. And to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the series, a birdie or eagle on the 10th hole of any course is worth R1 000.

At the time of going to print, the series had raised R337 000 for the campaign.

Andrew Curlewis is one of the professionals keen to do his part for charity.

“As pro golfers we’re privileged to do what we do for a living, and if we can help others then we must do so. My mom is still a great influence in my career. She still phones me on tour and asks if I’m eating correctly.”

This year the series has also supported the JAG BullyProof campaign to help eradicate bullying in schools.

All the golfers wear purple socks on the final day of each tournament as a show of support for the campaign.

 Remembering Mandela

 The Vodacom Origins of Golf series showed its support for Nelson Mandela when the golfers wore beaded South African flags during the tournament at Selborne Park Golf Club. Jean Hugo was one of those hoping for the recovery of the former President of South Africa, who over the years has often phoned South Africa’s top golfers when they’ve achieved internationally.

 History for SA golf

 The Vodacom Origins of Golf series made history for South African golf on National Women’s Day, with this being the first time that the local men’s professional circuit has held a tournament on a golf course designed by a woman.

The tournament was played at the Euphoria Golf Estate in the Waterberg region north of Pretoria, and finished on National Women’s Day. The course was designed by legendary Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam.

 Basson is back

 De Wet Basson, the golfer once considered as talented as Ernie Els, made his return to the Sunshine Tour fairways for the first time in 12 years during the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Langebaan Country Estate.

He did so as a caddie for good friend Des Terblanche.

Basson was a multiple winner on the Sunshine Tour and partnered Ernie Els in South Africa’s return to the World Cup of Golf in 1992. He played on the European Tour, enjoying his most successful season in 1993 when he finished 33rd on the Order of Merit, including tied 10th in the BMW PGA Championship that year.

But a loss of form saw him decide to retire from the game, and he opened up a vehicle dealership.

“I felt that if I couldn’t play to the same level as before then I’d better do as Ernie Els’s grandmother once told him to do and get a real job. I just recently sold my shares in the motor dealership. I’m a member at Langebaan so I thought it would be great to caddie for Des,” said Basson.

 Champions Dinner

 One of the traditions on the Vodacom Origins of Golf series is that the winner of the previous event is able to choose the opening night’s dinner at the next tournament.

After his breakthrough win at Euphoria, Heinrich Bruiners decided on a braai for the Langebaan event.

Bruiners’s victory meant he no longer had to pre-qualify for tournaments. A golfer forced to pre-qualify on the Sunshine Tour is under incredible pressure, beginning with the travel and accommodation costs associated with getting to a tournament, then joining anywhere between 40 and 100 golfers battling for 10 spots into the main field of a tournament. If he makes it into that field, he has to add another two days of costs before he’s even made a single cent back. And if he doesn’t make the cut, he won’t see a single cent.

So while the braai wasn’t a glamorous meal by any stretch, it certainly felt like a feast for the man who selected it.

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