Kempton Park – The prestige of winning a season-ending Tour Championship on the
Sunshine Tour will be the motivating factor for the likes of Oliver Bekker when
the tournament gets underway at Serengeti Estates on Thursday.

Bekker finds
himself in fifth position on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit ahead of the
final event of the 2017-18 term, and unable to overhaul leader George Coetzee.

That’s despite the fact that three victories before the end of August had
Bekker atop the standings for much of the year.

So it was
somewhat galling for him to hit a barren patch as the final events on the
Sunshine Tour schedule rolled around with their substantial purses.

A pair of
top-10s – in the Mauritius Open and the Cape Town Open – were not
enough to counteract a missed cut in the SA Open, and middling to poor
finishes in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, the Dimension Data Pro-Am and a
missed cut in the Tshwane Open.

To regain
his sublime early-season form and take a win in this new tournament would give
him some bragging rights to take from the fray, especially if he’s able to go
head-to-head with Coetzee and defeat the man who pipped him at the post to take
the Order of Merit.

There are a
couple of other players who will feel a little like Bekker does.

JC Ritchie and
Okkie Strydom have had the seasons of their careers. And while they might not
feel as if they have had the Order of Merit snatched from them, a concluding
victory for either of them would be the icing on the cake.

Ritchie had
a wretched start to his year – but it only lasted five holes of the 2018
Zimbabwe Open. He made a quintuple-bogey nine on the opening hole, and bogey
again on the fifth. But he picked up the pace dramatically, closing with a
flawless 64 to win his maiden Sunshine Tour title.

He’s
followed that up with a pair of superb third-place finishes, one in the SA
Open and the other in the Cape Town Open. He also finished a creditable 13th
in the Dimension Data Pro-Am and the Tshwane Open, solidifying the impression
that he’s had a breakout year.

Strydom has
come extraordinarily close to winning his first Sunshine Tour title in 10 years
as a professional. He finished second a remarkable five times during the season – in May, June, August, October and November.

Perhaps the
most heart-breaking of those runner-up finishes came in the Origins of
Golf event at Sishen, where he and Hennie du Plessis went to-to-toe for four
extra play-off holes.

Strydom succumbed to a 50-foot birdie putt from the
21-year-old.

Of course,
there are more players than just those three who would want to sign off the
season with a flourish in the elite field made up of all available players from
inside the top 50 of the Order of Merit after the Tshwane Open.

But victory
for any of those three would be especially sweet.

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