Englishman Paisley wins BMW SA Open

Chris Paisley became the third Englishman in the past four years to win the BMW South African Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni with his three-stroke victory at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday.

Paisley withstood a strong challenge from world number 30 Branden Grace and closed with a 66 to finish on 21 under par.

“Going head-to-head with Branden in his home country and with what felt like everybody out there supporting him was tough. I didn’t think I was capable of playing that well,” said Paisley, whose wife Keri caddied for him.

“I just can’t say enough with just how good she was this week. She doesn’t know that much about golf but she knows me really well. Just coming up the last fairway with her next to me was just incredible.”

Grace took second place on 18 under par after a final round of 68. The South African was looking to add to his victory in November’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.

After a fast start to his final round in which he birdied the first and then eagled the second, Grace had a one-stroke lead over Paisley.

But he double-bogeyed the sixth to drop two behind Paisley. The Englishman then moved three clear of Grace with a birdie on the seventh and continued to play composed golf, not dropping a single shot on his way to the title.

“He was flawless out there and played the best golf,” said Grace. “It didn’t go my way but I’ll take second place in my first week back. Hopefully I can get my hands on this trophy sooner or later.”

South African JC Ritchie enjoyed his best finish in a tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour when he secured third place on 16 under par with a final round of 65.

Kyle McClatchie finished as the leading amateur in a share of 15th place to secure the Freddie Tait Trophy. McClatchie ended an impressive championship with a final round of 71 for a total of 10 under par.

Grace gunning for glory in BMW SA Open

Branden Grace has kept South African hopes alive and will head into the final round of the BMW South African Open only one shot behind leader Chris Paisley of England.

Paisley was threatening to run away with the third round as he climbed to 15 under par with a 70 and largely unchallenged early in the round.

But after turning in one under for his round, Grace finally found his putting touch and came home with five birdies for a 66 and a tournament total of 14 under.

“I got frustrated out there to be quite honest. I thought I hit the ball superbly through 13 holes, but just couldn’t get it in the hole. I think the putting stroke was a little bit quick and I pushed and pulled a few. It’s called moving day for a reason, and sometimes you push too hard and sometimes it doesn’t happen. But I got it going,” Grace said of his turnaround on the back nine.

Grace is hunting his second big title in just over a month after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.

And he’s clearly relishing the opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to it big time. Through 13 holes in my third round here, I think I was five or six behind. I told myself to stay positive. I was four or five behind going into the last day at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, so I thought if I could get the margin pretty small, I could still have a chance. Now I’ve played myself right back into it and I’m really excited going into the final round.”

The South African is also banking on having the local support firmly in his corner.

“You feed off that. When a putt goes in, they go nuts and you desperately want to make the next one for an even bigger cheer. It will be a big advantage to have that support.”

South Africa’s Jacques Blaauw, American Chase Koepka and Frenchman Adrien Saddier will start the final round at 12 under.

Paisley, Saddier tied at the top as ‘Goose’ chases

England’s Chris Paisley and Frenchman Adrien Saddier (pictured) share the lead headed into the weekend of the BMW South African Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, and with double SA Open champion Retief Goosen five strokes off the pace.

Saddier posted a course record nine-under-par 63 and Paisley a 65 to share the lead on 13 under par.

“I’m very happy and excited for the weekend,” Saddier said after his bogey-free round. And he’s realised a childhood dream at Glendower this week.

“I asked for a selfie with Ernie Els because he was my idol when I was young.”

Young South African Jacques Kruyswijk is their nearest challenger on nine under par after a 67 and in what is his rookie season on the European Tour.

Goosen was one of those who made a big move up the leaderboard in a low-scoring second round.

The double US Open champion went out with three birdies and an eagle on his front nine, and added three birdies and a bogey on the back before arriving on the par-four 18th where a double bogey made for a frustrating end to his charge as he signed for a 67.

Branden Grace had to battle his own frustrations. After a first round featuring three eagles, Grace had to settle for a second-round 71. But he remains right in the hunt on eight under as he chases a maiden victory in the BMW South African Open.

With two rounds left, Paisley is hoping the trend of English champions in this championship works in his favour as well.

English golfers Graeme Storm and Andy Sullivan have won two of the last three BMW South African Opens.

“I know Stormy and Andy pretty well. I certainly hope that I can keep that trend going,” he said.

Grace hunting more SA golf glory

Branden Grace achieved a career first of three eagles in one round as he opened with a 65 to share the lead on day one of the BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, at Glendower Golf Club on Thursday.

Grace’s round of seven under par saw him join American Chase Koepka at the top of the leaderboard and one stroke clear of England’s Chris Paisley.

“It was good. I was a little bit rusty with some of the wedge shots and things like that but all in all very pleased with the outcome and I think I pretty much got the most out of that round. It’s a great start to 2018,” said Grace.

The South African is still revelling in his Nedbank Golf Challenge victory last November, and he displayed similar form when he eagled the par-five second, eighth and 15th holes at Glendower in a round that also included three birdies and two bogeys.

“On all the par-fives, I pretty much hit great tee shots and really gave myself some chances.”

The eagle on the second saw Grace hole a 25-footer, which he says was crucial to his round. “I get on a streak like this where I make one of those longish putts in the first couple of holes, then I pretty much know I just have to get it there. I had the lines on all of them.”

Koepka, the brother of PGA Tour campaigner and US Open champion Brooks Koepka, was delighted with his round after he opened with a bogey.

“I made eagle on the second hole and kind of kept it going from there. I just stayed patient after that first hole.”

Former SA Open champion Richard Sterne is well-placed at five under, while amateurs Garrick Higgo and Kyle McClatchie impressed with their opening rounds of four under.

And Jamie Donaldson recorded the first hole-in-one of this year’s tournament when he aced the par-three 14th with a nine iron.

Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel head into the second round on three under, while Ernie Els is at one under.

Acting Mayor tees off 2018 BMW SA Open

It was with great pride that the Acting Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, Cllr Lesiba Mpya, teed off the 2018 BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, at Glendower Golf Club on Thursday.

The City of Ekurhuleni has hosted the championship since 2011.

“For us, this is about more than golf. This year we have 10 young golfers coming through the development ranks as part of our Legacy Programme around this championship, and we’re happy we are able to invest in the youth and bring this kind of economic activity to the city,” said Mpya.

“This championship gives us an opportunity to speak to the socio-economic issues of our people, and we’re very pleased for this opportunity to intervene.”

Els excited by SA challenge

Ernie Els enjoyed two of his greatest passions at Glendower Golf Club on Tuesday as he spoke about his love for the BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, and his work with the Els for Autism organization.

The five-time winner of the second oldest national Open in golf said he was excited by the young South African stars who had responded to “The Boys are Back” theme of the 107th playing of this championship.

“We have a great field this week. I’m excited to see a lot of the South Africans here. There are so many of them knocking on the door of doing great things,” Els said.

The field includes South African Major winners in Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman and Charl Schwartzel, as well as Branden Grace, Brandon Stone, Dylan Frittelli, Dean Burmester, Haydn Porteous, George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken and Erik van Rooyen.

“There are young players here on the brink of becoming great players, and winning the BMW SA Open could be a really great stepping stone for them,” said Els.

And he’s equally excited about the prospect of “bringing back some of the old magic” when it comes to his own game this week.

“Last year was a funny year with my daughter Samantha going to College and a couple of injuries that I had. But I feel healthy and I want to play some golf, especially in front of my home crowd. I’ve also got some new equipment I’m working with. Hopefully I can get some of the old magic back and have a good week.”

From his first South African Open title in 1992 to his last in 2010, Els has always had great respect for this championship and what it has meant to his own career.

“I’m fortunate to have won this five times and it’s been amazing every single time. I have so many great memories of this tournament, including playing with some of the greatest golfers in the game. It’s good to be here as a 48-year-old and still competing in my national Open.

“You look at this tournament, and for a small country like ours so far south, to have this kind of history in our golf is unbelievable. The champions we’ve produced over the years has been incredible. Golf is ingrained in us. We have great programmes and everybody gives back in some way and that keeps the ball rolling.”

Giving back is a major priority for Els this week through his Els for Autism organization.

“We are doing a lot of work in the US and South Africa, and all of the proceeds from this week’s tournament go towards Els for Autism. It’s a wonderful way to give back. We’re helping a lot of kids and are moving forward with some exciting things. Working with these children changes your life. You think about things differently after you’ve been with these kids.”

Ekurhuleni’s young golfers part of BMW SA Open legacy

The Legacy Programme of the BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, will reach another major milestone at Glendower Golf Club this week when 10 young golfers who have made it through a lengthy qualifying process begin their coaching under former SA Open champion Gavan Levenson.

When the City of Ekurhuleni agreed to hosting the second oldest national Open in golf, it was with the undertaking that a true Legacy Programme would be developed to ensure the benefits of the championship would impact on the community for many years to come.

As part of this programme – the City of Ekurhuleni iNgomso Golf Development Programme – Glendower Golf Club committed to giving the 10 young development golfers membership of the club as well as the Gavan Levenson Golf Academy at the club. As members they will be able to compete in official junior tournaments, with all costs sponsored by the club.

The ultimate aim is that these young golfers could develop their games to the point of turning professional one day.

To identify these 10 golfers, 75 children between the ages of 8 and 10 were selected for a golf development clinic. Their respective coaches underwent the PGA of South Africa’s Level 1 Grow Golf Programme to ensure they had the necessary skills to coach these young golfers.

The golfers then participated in a clinic at Benoni Country Club in June 2017, and which was arranged by the City of Ekurhuleni Sports Department.

The gate takings from the 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 BMW SA Opens, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, were used to support the coaching clinic through the provision of SNAG golf equipment, which helps to teach golf in a fun and engaging manner.

After this clinic, 30 children were selected to attend a trial clinic with Gavan Levenson at Glendower Golf Club. And from this group the 10 golfers were selected.

The City of Ekurhuleni iNgomso Golf Development Programme will also be sponsoring a caddie at the golf club to attend the PGA of South Africa’s Level 1 coaching course, and who will then assist Levenson with the coaching programme and accompany the golfers to tournaments.

A vision that began with the gate takings of the 2011 and 2012 championships being used to purchase golf equipment and fund golf lessons for young golfers from Daveyton and Thembisa has now culminated in a programme that could change the lives of 10 young Ekurhuleni golfers.

Weir joins trio of former Masters champions at Glendower

Former Masters champion Mike Weir will play in only his third tournament on South African fairways when he heads to Glendower Golf Club for the BMW South African Open Championship, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, this week.

Weir joins Trevor Immelman and Charl Schwartzel as the three former Masters champions in the field for the 11-14 January tournament.

The left-handed Canadian will make his third tournament appearance in South Africa after playing in the 2001 Nedbank Golf Challenge and 2003 Presidents Cup as a member of the International Team.

Weir said his close friendship with tournament player-host Ernie Els convinced him to play in the 107th edition of the second oldest national Open in golf.

“I’ve played in South Africa twice before and I’ve decided to come again because Ernie is a good friend. I want to support him and the event. Also, my game is feeling much better,” Weir said.

Weir said he also has great respect for the history of the BMW South African Open, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni.

“I know the tournament has a long history and many great names on the trophy, so it’s a title worth pursuing. I’m looking forward to it.”

In 2003 Weir became the first Canadian professional and first left-handed golfer to win the Masters. He is a winner of eight PGA Tour titles and was also named one of Canada’s 100 Greatest Athletes of All Time.

The 107th edition of the tournament will feature one of its strongest local challenges in recent years as South Africa’s top professionals seek to return the title to home soil following the victory by England’s Graeme Storm in January 2017.

Els, Schwartzel and Immelman will be joined by fellow South African Major winner Retief Goosen as well as recent Nedbank Golf Challenge winner Branden Grace and fellow European Tour winners Dylan Frittelli, Brandon Stone, George Coetzee, Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

The BMW South African Open Championship, proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour and will be the first 72-hole tournament of the 2018 calendar year on The European Tour.

Silver lining for Storm with BMW SA Open win

England’s Graeme Storm almost lost his European Tour card last season, but in the first tournament of 2017 he beat world number two Rory McIlroy in a thrilling playoff to claim the BMW South African Open title at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday.

After finishing tied for the lead on 18 under par, Storm and McIlroy parred the 18th twice in the playoff. But the third time around, Storm made par and then watched as McIlroy’s par putt slid by the hole.

“It feels unbelievable. I had a great battle out there with Rory. To win this trophy and get my name on there is a dream come true. It’s a surreal moment for me,” said Storm.

McIlroy was disappointed, but full of praise for Storm’s performance.

“Yes it’s disappointing, but saying that Graeme played well all week. It’s a great story, him going from thinking he’s lost his card last year to winning the first week back out. So I’m really pleased for him. I wish I could’ve done something more, but it’s not a bad way to start the season.”

Dean Burmester finished as the leading South African in fourth place on 15 under par.

Storm had a three-stroke lead over the four-time Major champion going into the final round, but McIlroy started strong with two opening birdies and then took the lead by a stroke with four holes to play.

“I knew he’d be getting off to a quick start and he did that. I didn’t play my best golf all day and just tried to hang in as best I could,” said Storm.

McIlroy bogeyed 17 to drop into a share of the lead with Storm. Knowing he was outgunned in terms of power off the tee, Storm said he just tried to keep playing his own game into the playoff.

“That’s all I could do. I can’t bomb it like Rory.”

Storm has struggled through some low points in his career, which makes the pressure of this playoff seem trivial by comparison.

“When you win the British Amateur everybody expects you to be the next best thing. I got my card the first time at European Tour School and then lost it straightaway. It’s a difficult transition and I had some poor years. But I went back to the beginning and had great support.

“Last year was a real tough year. The pressure in the playoff was great and I was nervous, but the experience of last year and almost losing my card helped me. That’s real pressure – playing for your livelihood, playing to stay on the European Tour and playing to pay the bills. This proves and shows I deserve to be out here.”

“I’ve come through it and I want to try and build on it now.” – Michael Vlismas

Storm builds, and keeps BMW SA Open lead

England’s Graeme Storm may well have been nervous but he didn’t show it as he stretched his BMW South African Open lead to three strokes going into Sunday’s final round at Glendower Golf Club.

A bogey-free 67 lifted Storm to 17 under par and three ahead of world number two Rory McIlroy. South Africa’s Jbe Kruger and England’s Jordan Smith are next best on 13 under par.

But in a third round where McIlroy chipped in for an eagle two from the bunker on the seventh and went on a run of three birdies on the back nine to draw level with Storm at one point, Storm showed remarkable composure to take himself even further ahead of the field.

And he knows how big Sunday will be for him after just managing to retain his European Tour card last season.

“I’m a bit nervous to be honest with you. I find myself in a position that I’ve been in before over the years, but after last season I’m a little bit nervy,” said Storm.

“I’m pleased to see myself still at the top of the leaderboard. I didn’t make many mistakes, putted nicely and kept the momentum going. I’m just looking forward to a nice big steak tonight. I think I deserve it.”

Behind him, McIlroy signed for a 67 despite still suffering from the back pain he felt in the second round.

“I didn’t really get much sleep the night before. I had to wake up in the middle of the night and take a couple of painkillers. It was a little tender this morning as well. But the physios did a good job on me and strapped me up pretty well.

“I took a few anti-inflammatories before the round and during, which helped. It actually felt good on the back nine and hopefully this muscle spam around the joint is subsiding.”

McIlroy aside, Storm knows he’ll be in for another tough day on Sunday. As the leading South African, Kruger said he has no desire to end his SA Open challenge there.

“I don’t want to be the leading South African. I want to be the leading player overall once the last putt is holed on Sunday.”

And Italian Edoardo Molinari’s 63 on Saturday to climb to 12 under suggests there are still low scores to be found at Glendower Golf Club. – Michael Vlismas