A host of experienced players, including seven European Tour winners, will be bidding for places in The Open Championship at International Final Qualifying – Africa which gets underway tomorrow.
A field of 72 golfers will compete over two rounds at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club for three places at golf’s oldest Major Championship.
A number of players who performed well in the European Tour’s Tshwane Open are in the field including South African Louis de Jager who finished third, three shots behind the winner Dawie van der Walt. His countrymen Vaughn Groenewald and Jake Roos, who finished in a tie for 10th position, are joined by Garth Mulroy and James Kingston who tied for 16th along with Englishman Ross McGowan.
Anton Haig, who won the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic, will be one of the home hopes along with a group of talented young players including Attie Schwartzel, the younger brother of former Masters Champion Charl, and Oliver Bekker.
Bekker (27) won the Dimension Data Pro-Am last year and played in the WGC-Bridgestone Championship. His win at the Telkom PGA Pro-Am in January has given him confidence that he can qualify for The Open which is played at Muirfield from July 14-21.
“I’ve come close to qualifying a few times, and hopefully this year I can have a good couple of rounds and make my way to The Open. My wish is to play this year, but you have to take things step by step. Eventually you want to win The Open, that’s the ultimate experience in golf,” he said.
“I’ve played St Andrews a couple of times and played a bit of links golf, but I’ve never played Muirfield. I’m very excited for the week and I would be ecstatic if I could make it through!”
Last year’s qualifiers, South Africans Andrew Georgiou, Grant Veenstra and Brazil’s Adilson da Silva will be looking to make a quick return to The Open.
Da Silva has made three appearances at The Open in 2000, 2007 and 2012 and made the cut at Royal Lytham & St Annes last year to finish in 69th position.
Georgiou relished his first appearance in The Open, and the experience of playing practice rounds with Rory McIlroy and Ernie Els who went on to lift the Claret Jug.
“It was a very special week for me, playing alongside those players, walking on those fairways. It’s The Open – every hole feels like the 18th and the whole week seems to be one long dream,” he said.
The 2009 Madrid Masters champion McGowan will be hoping to make his first appearance at The Open since St Andrews in 2010. His compatriot Richard Finch, who has two wins on the European Tour, last played in The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008. They will be joined in the field by Austrian Martin Wiegele who won the Saint-Omer Open in 2010.
International Final Qualifying for The Open continues at IFQ America at Gleneagles Country Club in Texas on 20 May and IFQ Europe at Sunningdale in England on 24 June.
For the draw and full hole-by-hole scores from IFQ Africa visit here.