Picture: 123RF/Stefano Tiraboschi
Picture: 123RF/Stefano Tiraboschi

A strong SA challenge will gather at Leopard Creek for this year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship from November 26-29 as they seek to return the famous bronze leopard trophy to home soil after victories by foreign golfers for the past two years.

The four European Tour winners of Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Brandon Stone, George Coetzee and Dean Burmester will spearhead the quest for a SA winner of this prestigious championship after the 2019 victory of Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal and the 2018 triumph of David Lipsky of the US.

Larrazabal has confirmed he will return to defend the title he won in spectacular fashion last year as he battled through blisters on the final day to claim his fifth European Tour title.

But the South Africans are as determined as ever to reclaim their dominance of this championship, and on a golf course that is close to all of their hearts.

“Leopard Creek is one of my favourite courses worldwide, and the Alfred Dunhill Championship is one of the tournaments I’d love to win just because it’s played at such a special course,” said Bezuidenhout, now the highest ranked South African in the Alfred Dunhill Championship field at 58th in the world.

The young star heads for Leopard Creek after competing in his first Masters, and with the confidence of a solid performance on the PGA Tour this year where he made the cut in seven of the 10 tournaments he played, including four top-25 finishes.

After claiming his maiden European Tour title in the Andalucia Masters in 2019, Bezuidenhout started the year with a win in February’s Dimension Data Pro-Am and went on to break into the top on the world rankings.

“I’m getting more comfortable with where my game is at and my swing, the whole environment of playing on the European Tour and PGA Tour and playing with the best players in the world,” he said.

Stone will be looking to join Charl Schwartzel and Pablo Martin as the only multiple winners of the Dunhill Championship, and is relishing the prospect of returning to Leopard Creek and the golf course’s special setting on the banks of the Crocodile River overlooking the Kruger National Park.

“I’ve always loved this tournament and this golf course. It’s a tournament I’ll play for the rest of my career. To be able to have my name on that trophy is special,” he said.

The allure of Leopard Creek is an equally strong source of inspiration for Coetzee and Burmester.

“Every South African player loves to come back to Leopard Creek. The feeling you get from the course, especially with the views from some of the holes, is just unbelievable. There’s nothing else in the world that can compare with it. You get Pebble Beach with the ocean, St Andrews with the history, but then you get Leopard Creek and the wildlife. I’ll travel from anywhere in the world to come to play in this event,” said Coetzee.

Prize money for the tournament is R29m, making it the richest event on the Sunshine Tour this season.

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