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Golf | SA

George Coetzee © Gallo Images

‘Happy’ George hunting Order of Merit title



More than €1 million on the European Tour and R1.6million on the Sunshine Tour represents a highly impressive year for George Coetzee. The burly 26-year-old finished a career-high 21st in the Race to Dubai, and he once again underlined the fact that he is one of the shining lights in South African golf.

But, as far as he’s concerned, his year isn’t finished and there are still some important milestones on his Christmas wish-list. Despite having come so close on numerous occasions, a maiden European Tour win still eludes him. And, perhaps even more significantly, Coetzee wants to win his native tour’s Order of Merit.

“I want to win the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. I need a good finish this week, and hopefully I can play well and sneak past old Gracie,” he said.

Indeed it is Branden Grace who has laid down the marker this year, and he enjoys a lead in excess of R800 000 over Coetzee in the standings. But Coetzee comes into the €1.5 million Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in high spirits, and his adulation for the golf course will give him every reason to believe he can leap-frog Grace at the final hurdle.

“Compared to last week this is in unbelievable condition. We all love to come here. The vibe you get from this course, especially with the views from some of the holes, is just unbelievable. I played pretty nicely last week, but it took me some time to get used to the greens. I enjoy the greens here this week, so hopefully I’ll make a few more putts,” Coetzee said.

“There’s nothing else in the world that can compare to this place. You get Pebble Beach with the ocean, St Andrews with the history, but then you get this. It’s like taking you into the wildlife. The view from the 15th tee box feels like you’re looking over the entire world,” he added.

Situated on the southern border of the Kruger National Park, the Gary Player-designed course offers all those involved a unique experience, and the co-sanctioned event is thus one of the most popular events on both tours.

But it is also the richest event on the Sunshine Tour, and the first prize pay-out of R2 658 045 will make it difficult for Grace to rest easy knowing that players like Coetzee can clinch something that he’s had ownership of since the Joburg Open. Of course, there are 154 other players who might have a say in the matter, but a relaxed Coetzee, who came third in this event last year, had the look of a man who was right at home.

“It puts you in a good mood being here. I’ll travel from all over the world to come to play in this event - it gives you such a good feeling. It’s always good to be happy when you play golf,” the man from Pretoria said.

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