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Golf | SA

Jaco Ahlers © Gallo Images

Jaco ‘feeling good’ at East London



Jaco Ahlers didn’t have it all his own way in 2012. Consistency wasn’t the hallmark of his season, and nine missed cuts would translate into a poor year for many players.

But the big man from Centurion showed glimpses of his true class with a second-placed finish at the Telkom PGA Championship, and only a defeat in the final to Doug McGuigan prevented him from lifting the inaugural ISPS Handa Match Play Championship trophy.

Such results were the highlight of a more than satisfactory year that saw him amass earnings of just under R1 million, and a finish in a tie for 38th at last week’s Joburg Open would suggest that 2013 has started off on the right foot. This week Ahlers and 155 other players head to the picturesque East London Golf Club for the sixth edition of the co-sanctioned Africa Open, and the 30 year-old does so with good memories of his efforts in the event last year.

“In 2012 I was tied for the lead here after two rounds,” Ahlers said. “I didn’t play that well on the weekend, but I still finished 14th, so that wasn’t too bad. I am not sure if it suits my game but I get a good feeling on that course,” said Ahlers.

East London GC boasts a proud history which has seen it host the South African Open on six occasions, along with many other prestigious tournaments. This year will mark fifth successive year that the par-72 course has staged the Africa Open, and the event is always a highlight on both The Sunshine and European Tour calendars. Measuring just 6 163 metres, the coastal course is susceptible to attack from the quality fields that have graced it in the absence of wind, and winning scores of 267, 272, 276 and 265 in the four years pervious are testament to this.

“It's a pretty short course and scores will be good but it ultimately depends on the weather. The wind is its only defence so if it stays calm then you'll have to go very low to figure on the leaderboard,” Ahlers noted.

He added: “It should be windier than most of the events we normally play on the Highveld, but we have had good weather here the last few years - just look at the scores!”

The €1-million event was co-sanctioned for the first time by the European Tour in 2010, and is one of six events on the European Tour to be staged in South Africa. The list of past winners includes the likes of Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, and it is indicative of the fact that this tournament has never failed to attract some of the finest players in the world. This week is no different, with the likes of Thomas Aiken, Robert Rock, Jbe Kruger, Garth Mulroy and Trevor Fisher Jnr all vying for the esteemed title.

But despite such stiff competition, players such as Ahlers have every reason to believe that this may be their breakthrough week. A win would ensure a full European Tour playing card until the end of 2014, and, with a winner’s cheque of €158 500, there’s all to play for.

“I was actually a bit disappointed with my finish last week in Joburg, but I have some good things going with my game right now. I am very close to playing really well so I’m really looking forward to the next few events, but particularly this week.

“I am feeling more confident with each week that goes by, so East London is a great opportunity for me. It's definitely a ball-strikers course, and I feel comfortable here. You just never know what might happen,” he smiled.

The first ball will be struck at 7:30am on Thursday, and SuperSport will be providing live coverage of all four days from 1:30pm. Those in the area can come down and watch for a small fee of R5 per day on Thursday and Friday (under 18s for free), and R25 per day on the weekend (under 18s for R5).

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