Callie Swart, who last year claimed the Big Easy Tour Houghton tournament by two strokes over Jake Redman and Mark Williams, must defend his title at the season-opener on March sixth.
Swart, a veteran on the Sunshine Tour, used his experience to tackle the tough, undulating greens of Houghton Golf Club on his way to the winner’s share of the R100,000 prize fund.
“I knew that any shot that was a little bit out could easily lead to a three-putt. With the difficulty of the greens, I decided to play it safe, and it worked for me,” he said.
He was elated to lift the cheque and claim his third professional victory. “To win in any tournament is special. I just kept calm and that paid off for me. I’m very happy to get the win,” said Swart.
Redman, who will also contend in the Houghton season-opener, must be commended for his honesty on the 17th hole last year. He was tied for first at five-under, yet Redman called a penalty on himself because his ball had moved after he approached it. Redman was the only person to witness the incident.
Louis Calitz, the Sunshine Big Easy Tour Order of Merit winner, leads a field bursting with previous Big Easy Tour success stories.
One of those successfuls is Dean Burmester, who took a share of 13th at the R3,5-million Telkom PGA Championship a week ago. The 22-year-old claimed three second-place finishes on the 2011 Big Easy Tour and credited much of his success to those times in contention. “The Big Easy Tour gives a lot of us young guys the opportunity to get into a winning situation. I had a couple of second-places last year and that really boosts your confidence – just knowing that you’re there,” he said.
He led the second round of the Telkom PGA and, at the time, said: “Days like today prove how much the Big Easy Tour is helping us and the development of golf in South Africa.”
With such tough competition headed for Houghton, the rookies must hit the ground running, which should be no problem for the likes of Lean Boezaart – the Westlake Country Club professional was the only amateur qualifier for the 2011 SA Open.
Joining him are Rookie of the Year leader Danie van Tonder, Qualifying School winner Ruan de Smidt, and Vusi Ngubeni Qualifying School winner Alpheus Kelapile.
As maiden champion, Swart must tackle not only those who competed last year, but the new faces all looking to setup their year at the season-opener.