The inaugural ‘Drive to the SA Open’ series began in February and ended on 17-18 November with a grand final at the Ernie Els-designed Highland Gate Golf Club.
The field for the final, sponsored by Investec, was made up of all the winners of the 14 regional events held across South Africa during 2016. Also in attendance were the series’ successful auction bidders and representatives from the events’ many generous sponsors.
All of the many competitors who entered the Drive to the SA Open series had raised funds for The Ernie Els Centre for Autism in South Africa and the finalists here at Highland Gate were playing their hearts out to try to win a place in the 2017 SA Open pro am. Congratulations to winners Johan Van Staden and Wally Herbst (pictured below, far right and second from the left) who scored an impressive 91 points in the betterball stableford format.
Day one had begun with a shot-gun start and par-3 shootout in perfect 30-degree weather, with the golf course looking absolutely pristine. Golfers each donated R100 to qualify for the event and had to hit the green in order to proceed through the competition. Former Tour professional and event host Nico Van Rensburg was persuaded to take part…and he showed that his skills remain undiminished by winning the competition. Nico donated his prize to runner-up Wally Herbst…all in all, it was a fruitful day for Wally!
Drive to SA Open final leaderboard
1. Johan Van Staden & Wally Herbst – 91 points
2. Andre Le Roux & Riaan Hefer – 86 points
3. Derek Bekker & Chris Crossman – 84 points
4. Peps Pretorius & Mike Clement – 83 points
Our MC then for the evening function was Dan Nichol, joined by Jeff Clause and Nico Van Rensburg, who reminisced with some entertaining and insightful anecdotes about Ernie’s younger days on Tour. Later, the famous South African singer Monique Steyn delighted the audience with her golden voice.
The second day’s events were brought forward in order to get the better of an ominous-looking weather forecast and, despite a short delay due to early morning fog, the plan was entirely successful. All the golfers finished their rounds just before a mighty hail-storm swept across beautiful Highland Gate, a golf course that received a unanimous 10 out of 10 for its superb layout and immaculate conditioning.
Nico Van Rensburg of The Els Group (pictured below, second from right) commented, “It was a fantastic couple of days and obviously we are grateful to everyone who took part, and to the team at Highland Gate and of course to all of the companies who generously supported us. Thanks in particular to Sam Hagner of Investec, our main sponsor, and to all the other sponsors – Ernie Els Wines, TaylorMade Golf, Courier It, The Ernie Els Collection, Compleat Golfer magazine, Golf Weather, SAP and Kappa.”
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