31 January 2006
The 2005 BMW and Golf Digest awards, recognising the country’s top 10 golf courses, as well as the year’s top performers both on the course and in the industry, show South African golf in a very healthy state going into 2006.
Leopard Creek, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2006, retained its title as the number one golf course in South Africa for the second year in a row.
The Gary Player Country Club at Sun City, which has ranked number one six times in the past eight years, came in a close second, with The Links at Fancourt finishing third for the third successive year.
Best new course
The best new course was awarded to Simola, with the panel members making reference to its picturesque views of the Knysna Lagoon and its fantastic variety of golfing holes.
“There was a tremendous battle for the honour of being the number one course, and Leopard Creek retained the honour in a split decision over the Gary Player Country Club,” said Golf Digest editor Stuart McLean.
“Both courses, which host two of the biggest tournaments on the South African calendar, exemplify the best in South African golf course design.”
Golf Digest’s top 10 for 2005 includes a new course, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pearl Valley in the Cape Winelands, and also sees the return of the Montagu course at Fancourt, which has undergone a major upgrade at the hands of Scottish designer David McLay Kidd.
Gary Player dominates
The top three courses were all Gary Player designs.
“Golf Digest’s course rankings in South Africa have always been met with high anticipation, and of course I am proud that our courses have fared well over the years,” Player said.
“But with the flurry of activity and globally recognised architects we are now seeing in our country, future rankings are going to be more and more interesting and competitive … This is all good for the industry.”
The standard of courses in South Africa has improved markedly over the past few years, with the country growing in prominence on the international golfing calendar.
In 2005, Golf Digest USA ranked Leopard Creek and The Gary Player Country Club among the top 30 courses in the world outside the US.
Golf Digest’s other awards for 2005:
Player of the Year: Tim Clark
South Africa didn’t have a major champion in 2005, but a new world star emerged in the form of Tim Clark. Clark had a special year in 2005, winning the South African Open and the Scottish Open, playing in the Presidents Cup, and climbing more than 50 places up the world rankings to a high of 16 during the year.
Contribution to Golf: Tania Fourie and Lesley Copeman
Together, Tania Fourie and Lesley Copeman are responsible for bringing the Women’s World Cup of Golf to the country and making a success of it.
Best Young Professional: Charl Schwartzel
The award goes to the best player under 25, and with Schwartzel just 21 years of age, he could still win the award for a few years to come. He won the Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in December 2004, and went on to capture the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit title last summer.
Best Senior Player: Mark McNulty
McNulty had a great year when he joined the Champions Tour in 2004 after turning 50, and he excelled himself again in 2005, winning two more titles and improving four places to finish third on the money list. “Mighty Mac” also had the best scoring average on the Champions Tour in 2005.
Most improved player on Sunshine Tour: Warren Abery
Just three years ago, bothered by back problems, loss of confidence and approaching 30, Abery was wondering if he had a future in professional golf. Today, he is one of the top stars on the Sunshine Tour, having won the Telkom PGA Championship in 2005. A third-place finish on the Order of Merit, with earnings of R700 000, gave him opportunities overseas, and at the Final Qualifying School at the end of 2005 he earned a European Tour card for 2006.
Amateur of the Year: Charl Coetzee
The award went to an amateur who is slightly older than the usual award winners in this category. Charl Coetzee, from Bellville Golf Club in the Cape, is now 24 and has been one of the top amateurs for quite some time. He’s in no rush to turn pro. He won the Gauteng North Open in 2005, and his consistency earned him international colours as he represented South Africa here, in Australia and in Argentina.
Best Round of the Year: Marc Cayeux
The award for the most sensational round of the year went to a player who tore one of South Africa’s top courses apart on the Sunshine Tour last summer. Marc Cayeux, from Zimbabwe, shot an 11-under-par 61 around the Woodmead course at Country Club Johannesburg. And he did this in the final round of the Tour Championship, to win the title by six shots.
Special achievement: Alan McLean
A very special achievement in 2005 came from Sunshine Tour player Alan McLean, who equalled the world record with nine consecutive birdies in the third round of the Telkom PGA at the Woodhill Country Club.