A walk down the corridor from the reception area of the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City evokes so many memories.
Along both walls there are photographs of all the winners, from Johnny Miller in 1981 to Ernie Els’ first of three wins in 1999 – where his 25-under-par is still the record – to the back-to-back triumphs of the late Seve Ballesteros in the Eighties.
Els, David Frost and Nick Price have all won the tournament on three occasions, while there’s a handful of players that have achieved two victories.
And the latest player to etch his name in the tournament’s history is our own Branden Grace, who broke a 10-year South African title drought when he won by one stroke over Scotland’s Scott Jamieson last year.
He’ll be back to defend his title in just less than a month, and he’ll be joined by Ryder Cup heroes Sergio Garcia – himself a two-time winner – Rory McIlroy and European captain Thomas Bjorn, plus a host of big names.
I was fortunate to participate in the final round this week before they close the course to make sure it is in immaculate condition come November 8 for the Nedbank Golf Challenge. It’s all systems go for “Africa’s Major”.
Local sports fans demand plenty from their South African sportsmen. They want a South African winner, week-in, week-out. South Africans have enjoyed a solid record at Sun City over the years, while we have a number of locals in the mix to win a title on both the European and PGA Tours.
However, in terms of titles, the country isn’t exactly enjoying its best run. Louis Oostzhuizen, at 36, is our highest ranked golfer, while you would have to go back as far as 2012 at the Open Championship to find our last Major winner when Els won at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.
On the European Tour only Dylan Frittelli (Mauritius Open), George Coetzee (Tshwane Open) and Brandon Stone (Scottish Open) won last season, while our last winner on the PGA Tour was Grace at the Heritage Classic in April 2016.
Here’s hoping South African golfers’ fortunes will change for the better at Sun City next month.