A Fairytale Story All Around
SOUTH AFRICA – The BMW South African Open is the 2nd oldest national open championship in the world, dating back to 1903. This year the tournament sizzled with excitement as Rory McIlroy made good on a promise to Ernie Els to play. The Big Easy is the player-host of the SA Open and played in the 2014 Irish Open, which is hosted by the McIlroy Foundation. The exchange of these two greats to support each other’s tournaments has truly been felt in growing the game in South Africa.
The full capacity crowd at the Glendower Golf Club were treated with an outstanding performance by McIIroy and Graeme Storm, who both finished on an 18-under-par 270 after 72 holes of regulations play. Their rivalry went down to the wire with 3 play-off holes when Storm took advantage of a wayward drive by McIIroy to take the victory on Sunday, January 15, 2017.
It was a fairytale story all around; Graeme Storm was at risk of losing his European Tour Card at the end of last year when he ranked 112th on the money list, but was granted a reprieve by Patrick Reed who withdrew from the Turkish Airlines Open. This meant that Reed didn’t fulfill the minimum European Tour membership requirements of five tournaments and Storm moved to 111th, to take the last qualifying spot. The victory at the BMW SA Open was his second victory on the European Tour, his first being the French Open ten years before.
Local SA Caddie Thama Jeffrey Nkonyane is part of the fairytale by collecting the biggest check in his 32 year career. Caddies in South Africa earn minimum wage and are often supporting large families with this. In an interview with Lali Stander the 51-year-old caddie from Soweto said, “This will definitely be the biggest pay day of my life and of course the money is going to be great, but this is the proudest day of my career.”
The rest of the fairytale is for the South African fans who were treated with an exceptional display of golf all around. The magic that was brought to the tournament by Rory McIIroy was felt by everyone who watched; and walking the fairways with Ernie Els and Nick Faldo added an extra touch of greatness to the event. Ironically the controversial press around McIIroy last year with his comments regarding growing the game were made null and void this week. At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words and his visit to South Africa made a massive impact on golf on the African continent.
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Photographs by: Christiaan Kotze (Backpagepix) and ANA Micahel Sherman, respectively