How good is Jake?
It was an encouraging week for Zimbabwean sport. Although secondary to the outrageously over-inflated glamour of the IPL, their test cricket team put on a polished display – despite all sorts of internal strife – to convincingly defeat Bangladesh. In a country plagued by corruption, few organisations are as cash strapped as Zimbabwe Cricket, and the result was a much-needed boost for them.
But just down the road at Royal Harare Golf Club, our northerly neighbours once again hosted a fantastic event: the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open. The event is without question one of the favourite stops for players, media and tournament officials, and the prize fund of R1.65 million is indicative of the prestige this tournament commands.
Yet again, we were treated to some fantastic golf too, with Jake Roos’s final round of 67 proving to be enough to sneak home by a solitary stroke. The par-72 course has an uncanny knack of offering birdies in abundance, but also punishing the bad shots. This was reflected best by third-round co-leader Darren Fichardt’s final round of 72, which included six birdies and six bogeys.
Indeed it had appeared to be a two-horse race going into the final day, with Fichardt and Italian Francesco Laporta enjoying a share of a three-stroke lead. However, both men failed to mount a significant charge, and it opened the door to Roos. The 32-year-old, who began the day four strokes adrift, gleefully accepted the opportunity, and three unblemished birdies down the stretch helped him to his sixth career Sunshine Tour victory – astonishingly, his first in the absence of a playoff.
And this latest triumph begs the question: just how good is this guy?
In 2005, Roos broke a South African record for the lowest tournament round as an amateur when he “ground out” a 61. It justifiably gave him the encouragement to turn pro later that year. Despite simultaneously juggling an accounting degree at the University of Stellenbosch, he gained his full Sunshine Tour card. Between 2007 and 2009, he triumphed in six Golden State Mini Tour events in California, and in 2010 he added a European title to his CV with a win at the Zurich Open.
But arguably the most significant breakthrough came in 2008 when he lifted the Suncoast Classic trophy in Durban. He won again the following year at the Nedbank Affinity Cup, but it was in 2012 that he really hit his straps. He defeated Chris Swanepoel and Anthony Michael on the fifth playoff hole to win the Platinum Classic at Mooinooi, before seeing off Justin Harding in a playoff three months later to win the Lombard Insurance Classic.
And the biggest win of his career came in November at the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club, when he birdied the second playoff hole to beat the likes of Jaco van Zyl and Tyrone van Aswegen to the R317 000 winner’s cheque. Three wins, but still time to take up a law degree through Unisa. Quite a year it was for Roos!
A look at the Official World Golf Rankings makes for pretty reading if you’re South African. 12 golfers find themselves inside the top 150, and 10 inside the top 100. Roos is now very much knocking on the door placed 159th. The big question is: can he take his success to the next level?
All 12 South African players ranked above him have European Tour cards – as do numerous players below him. One feels that it is overseas where he needs to make his mark if he is to be competing in majors and enjoying the grand stage. But with six wins, R4 million in earnings and two degrees, would you bet against him?