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Bjorn wins Africa's Major at Sun City
A blistering final round of 65 by Thomas Bjorn blew his competitors away as he earned a two-stroke win and a 15th European Tour title at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday.
The Dane, who started the day three strokes behind overnight leader Jamie Donaldson, kept himself in the hunt with an outward nine of 33, and proceeded to quite simply power his way to victory on the Gary Player Country Club's second nine as he amassed two eagles and a birdie to finish on a 20-under par total of 268.
"This is right up there," a delighted Bjorn said of his win to reporters afterwards. "Obviously there are one or maybe two victories for me. The first one always stands out, and then my 4 day head-to-head with Tiger in 2001 in Dubai is obviously very special to me to have come out on top in that, but this is right up there.
"The golf I played this week was so good and I take that with me. I am 42 - every year a new season starts, and you wonder if this is going to be the season where is starts not going so well. So to start my 40's like this is just unbelievable."
An inspired Sergio Garcia (65) produced eight birdies in his first 15 holes, and kept pace with Bjorn until a bogey at the par-three 16th hole ended his title hopes. The Spaniard had to settle for a share of second place on 18 under with Donaldson (70), whose own challenge faded after a bogey at the par-five ninth hole.
World No 3 Henrik Stenson produced a polished 67 to take fourth place on 16 under, while Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge (66) impressed once again and finished fifth a further stroke adrift.
Charl Schwartzel's final round 66 left him as the highest-placed South African on 13 under, while Justin Rose (67) and American Ryan Moore (73) shared seventh one stroke behind the 2011 Masters champion.
It was Garcia who made the early moves as he opened with two consecutive birdies. A run of four in a row from the sixth hole then completed a sensational outward nine of 30. Donaldson found the water at the ninth, and his resultant bogey there left him in a share of the lead with the Spaniard at the turn.
But Bjorn's three birdies on the first nine kept him within one stroke of the duo, and an eagle at the par-five 10th hole catapulted the 42-year old to the top of the leaderboard. Garcia continued to rally with birdies at the 14th and 15th, but Bjorn refused to relinquish his lead. A second eagle at the 14th, combined with Garcia's blemish at the 16th, then left him in cruise control, and a three-putt bogey on the 72nd hole proved to be merely academic.
"It was a hard-fought day today," Bjorn reflected. "With them being three shots ahead, you have to try and make up that ground, and I had a sneaky feeling that Henrik and Sergio were going to be very close at the end. Sergio just kept piling on the pressure and his numbers kept improving on the golf course."
He continued: "But I had two big moments today. The 5 iron into 10 was probably the best shot of the week, and the eagle there also gave me the lead. Then obviously the shot into 14 was a bit fortunate (it ran through the greenside bunker). But these were two big moments, and obviously the two eagles on the back nine on a Sunday - well that does not happen very often, so I am proud of myself this week. I kept to my game plan and I played really well."
And in a week where South Africa lost its former president Nelson Mandela, the three-time former Ryder Cup vice captain was glowing with pride at having added Africa's Major to his trophy cabinet.
"I'm just proud and happy about winning this golf tournament. It is one of those tournaments that has been there for so long, and the times that I have been here before, it has been difficult for me to get right into the tournament. I had a good chance in 2003 or 2004 to win, but that got away from me. But I always wanted to come down here and put in a strong performance, and I guess this time was my time," he concluded.
Bjorn becomes the second Dane to win on the European Tour in the 2014 Race to Dubai after compatriot Morten Orum Madsen's South African Open triumph at Glendower a fortnight ago, and he has now tasted victory on the European Tour in 11 different countries. He also banks a a cool $1.25 million for his efforts, and the new Race to Dubai leader light-heartedly reflected on his Christmas windfall.
"This is the biggest cheque of my career. It's pretty hard to win more than this in the game of golf," he smiled.
"But I'm sure the family are spending it already!"
Be sure to play at Sun City's Gary Player Country Club during your upcoming golf holiday in South Africa!
Walking in the footsteps of giants
It’s that time of year again, where the world’s top golfers walk in the footsteps of legendry golfers before them, attempting to master one of ‘the home of golf’s’ toughest championships.
It would be difficult to imagine a more spectacular setting for The Barclays Scottish Open than Loch Lomond Golf Club by the shores of the most famous stretch of inland water in Scotland.
Designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, the 7,100 yard parkland course is considered to be among the 'Top 100' finest golf courses in the world. The course is a true test for even the best golfer, demanding skill on the fairway, in approach play and on the green.
South African golfers are pulling out all the stops with Retief Goosen coming close to matching his course record at Loch Lomond, settling for an 8-under 63 Friday to build a two-shot lead over Adam Scott midway through the second round of the Scottish Open.
No one has a better record on the bonny banks however, than Ernie Els, having won twice. Over his last 32 rounds on the Loch Lomond course he is a collective 84 under par. No wonder he struck a quietly confident note when confronted about his recent poor form. "I have been losing my patience a bit and in this game you can't do that. The angrier you get, the worse it gets," he said. "But I'm focused to play well this week and into the future, and I'd like to start doing that this week."
"I feel like I have the drive and the desire to win more golf tournaments, and that is why I am still trying. I don't know when that will ever go away. If it does, then I will probably walk away but right now I am still very, very dedicated to my sport. Why do I still love golf? I can't answer that. It's been in my blood. It's been what I've always done. I still watch golf on television, so it's a mad drug."
Listening to Els speak so passionately, it is hard to believe anyone could still doubt his commitment to the sport, but inevitably some will remain unconvinced until the South African recaptures at least some of the form that once made him the third member of golf's holy trinity, alongside Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
As Ernie fights back for his passion, so other South Africans are fighting for quite a different cause.
In 1984 the highly acclaimed South African writer, Dalene Matthee, first kindled the fire in South Africans’ hearts for the Knysna Forest and its inhabitants. Her much beloved novel, Circles in a Forest, was so successful that it was eventually translated into numerous languages and had a similar effect on people around the world.
The heartwarming tale of Saul Barnard and his life long relationship with the greatest and most feared of all the Knysna elephants, ‘Oupoot’, opened our eyes to the tragic history of the Knysna Forest and all who lived within it.
The elephants of Knysna, the only really wild elephants left in South Africa (as there are no fences keeping them in a designated park), and certainly the most mysterious, elusive and endangered, are dwindling at an alarming rate. Strong evidence suggests that only one matriarch and a few younger individuals remain. But they are genetically isolated, and almost certainly destined to die out.
Conservationists tried translocating a couple of elephants from Kruger to Knysna a few years ago, but those poor Lowveld animals took one look at the tangled forests and rushed to hide out in the much safer-looking surrounding farmlands and so the plan was abandoned.
In this day and age, walking is probably the least efficient way to get from one place to another. So there has to be another reason for anyone deciding to walk the 400-odd kilometres between Kranshoek in the Knysna Forest to Addo near Port Elizabeth. And there is. South Africa's Eden to Addo Mega-Hike is a pilgrimage – a pilgrimage to biodiversity.
It's a ridiculously optimistic and romantic idea, but that's what a pilgrimage is all about – faith. And hope. It's about putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, for a cause, for a dream, and for a better future.
The hike is offered once a year as a "slackpacking" trail. Trailists carry only the essentials in a day pack, and all their gear is taken from camp to camp by a back-up vehicle. Added luxuries are the fact that your tents are erected for you, and meals provided. So like any good pilgrim, you can concentrate on the mission at hand.
The hike straddles five distinct biomes and links three major conservation areas. The existing parks and reserves are the Knysna Protected Area, the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and the Greater Addo Elephant National Park. These together protect patches of Afromontane Forest, Mountain Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Savanna Grassland and Albany Thicket. The views are stupendous, the air is invigorating and the constant change in scenery and vegetation offers an intellectual challenge equal to the physical one.
The 2009 hike runs from 4 to 23 September and certainly promises to give visitors a once in a lifetime experience.
Surpassing all expectations
It has never been a better time for the South African sports fan as the nations’ sporting heroes are all stepping up to the plate this winter.
Sabbatini, the 33-year-old South African, finished at 19-under 261 on Sunday 24 May at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas. This win was especially remarkable as it broke the tournament mark of 18 under set by Loren Roberts and playoff loser Steve Pate in 1999, when the Cottonwood Valley course also was used the first two days.
Wearing a pink shirt in a show of support for Amy Mickelson, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and heavy hearted because of the rapidly deteriorating health of a friend with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Sabbatini shot a 6-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over late-charging Brian Davis in Lord Byron's tournament.
Embracing his wife and Peggy Byron, Lord Byron’s widow, Sabbatini commented: "Obviously this tournament is very special, it's one that I wish I had have been able to win it and look up and see Byron sitting there at the 18th green. ... What a wonderful name to be associated with now."
While the South Africans are deeply passionate about their sport, there is no shortage in the love of culture and with this comes award winning wines and fantastic traditional cuisine.
This year marked the sixth anniversary of the Robertson Wine Valley’s biggest annual wine festival, with the ever-popular Wacky Wine Weekend that took place during the first week of June. With over 48 wineries having participated, visitors had four days of even more festivities and celebrations!
The Wacky Wine Weekend embraced the usual line-up of fun-filled activities, for example: ‘meet-the-winemaker’ tastings, vineyard tractor trips, river cruises, sunset game drives, cheese- and olive tastings, a farmers’ market, street theatre, live music, a fireworks display, the half-marathon and mountain bike challenge. New attractions comprised a jewelry market, brandy tours and tastings, a sushi- and wok bar and a simulated rodeo bull.
In addition to the wine offerings, the Valley also presented plenty to please food lovers. Oysters, perlemoen (abalone), sushi, riverside picnics, Italian cuisine, and potjiekos were all included in the mouthwatering options.
In Rugby, the Super 14 came to a suspense-filled conclusion seeing the South African Blue Bulls crowned the 2009 champions.
A packed Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria saw The Bulls defeat The Chiefs in the Super 14 final by a record 61-17.
Just as the excitement of the IPL, hosted by South Africa came to an end, the next big cricketing event is already under way. The South Africans are picked by many to win the ICC World Twenty20 this time around, although critics of the team point to a history of underperformance in big ICC tournaments.
Judging by the performances we have been seeing from the Proteas since the beginning of the year, here in South Africa we have all the confidence in our team’s abilities.
A Coastal Affair
At the southern point of Africa, a unique journey of discovery awaits! From its humble beginnings to the dynamic country it has become today, South Africa inspires all who visit her shores.
Featuring some of the most magnificent landscapes to be found in the world, unique wildlife, passionate, friendly and inviting locals, you would be hard pressed to find a more inviting travel destination.
In the words of Richard Busch, Travel Editor for National Geographic Traveler, “By any standard, the Western Cape region of South Africa is one of the most beautiful and compelling places to visit on the planet. Here, in addition to a city with fascinating historical sites, excellent museums, vibrant markets and a handsomely restored waterfront, I encountered mountain wilderness, rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, lush gardens, beautiful wine estates, superior hotels and some of the warmest, most welcoming people I've ever met."
Cape Town, fondly named the mother city, is the oldest and most culturally aware city in South Africa. The gateway to Africa, it is here where indigenous cultures - San, Khoi and Xhosa followed by Europeans and peoples from the Malaysian and Indian archipelagos first set foot before exploring the rest of South Africa.
South Africa’s culinary capital, Franschhoek, founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, nestles in a rich and fertile valley between glorious towering mountains, right in the beautiful heart of the Cape Winelands. In addition to internationally acclaimed restaurants and eateries, this scenic gem is a wine lover’s delight, boasting a deep vigneron tradition.
Some of the country’s oldest and most famous wine estates are found here. These Grand Olde Cape-Dutch farmhouses and wine stores have watched proudly over the land for centuries; and the vineyards and wine estates still produce some of South Africa's top wines today.
Travelling along the coast, you encounter the world renowned garden route, where Knysna can be found. One of the Southern Cape coast's best known holiday destinations, situated between lush forests and the shores of the peaceful lagoon.
The Knysna Lagoon is one of the few places in the world that supports an oyster hatchery and the Knysna oysters are reputedly among the tastiest in the world. Millwood House Museum in Queen Street, houses material relating to the history of the town, and includes artifacts once owned by George Rex, rumored to be the illegitimate son of King George lll.
Two great sandstone cliffs guard the mouth of the lagoon which connects the estuary with the sea, known as the Knysna Heads. A lookout has been erected on the Eastern Head, commanding spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna. The Western Head is a privately owned nature Reserve - Featherbed Bay.
Pezula Golf Resort is conveniently situated on the outskirts of central Knysna, twice voted South Africa’s favourite town. Nelson Mandela has stayed there and the top football teams in the world are vying to make it their exclusive base camp for the FIFA 2010 World Cup. And now the internationally acclaimed South African resort estate, Pezula, has been heralded Best Property in the World, at the CNBC International Property Awards, presented in Orlando, USA on Friday 7 November 2008.
Since the launch in 2003, Pezula has been overwhelmed with accolades and awards, including Best Luxury Development in the World (2007), Most Environmentally Aware Development in the World (2005), Best Retreat in Africa (2008), Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in Africa & the World (2008), Africa’s Leading Spa Resort (2008) and Most Outstanding Golf Resort Worldwide (2006).
Pezula is Africa at its best and has been recognised as such, offering incredible outdoor activities including hiking, canoeing, horse riding, beach, swimming and nature trails, wildlife and birds; the accommodation is 5–star luxury with service to match. Also featuring an award-winning spa & gym and a gourmet restaurant, it is no wonder that Pezula continues to receive such international acclaim.
The location on the magnificent Garden Route with its rugged coastline, ancient indigenous forests and beautiful floral fynbos landscapes is unrivalled in the world. Pezula is an extraordinary brand and it has established itself unequivocally as one of the best luxury brands in the world.
The Eastern Cape, though not as well known, holds its own majestic charms. This region boasts a wealth of flora and fauna, the "Big Five" in a malaria-free environment and conservation areas that include the Mountain Zebra National Park and the Addo Elephant National Park. The coastal waters are rich in marine life, abundant with dolphins and the occasional whale spotted from the beaches.
In late February the Cuyler Hofstede farm near Uitenhage in Nelson Mandela’s Bay, becomes the centre point of a truly unique South African experience.
The Prickly Pear Festival - 16 tons of bristling fruit makes this a prime prickly pageant! But this spiky little Mexican fruit hasn't always had a smooth history in South Africa. Initially introduced as fodder for stock and hedging, these fruit thrived under the South African sun. So much so, that in 1937 the Eastern Cape Agricultural Board declared the crop an 'alien undesirable' that had to be eradicated. Half a century later there was an about turn and now the prickly 'cactus pear' or 'Indian fig' enjoys a legitimate crop status. In 1987 the Caylor Manor Museum in Uitenhage held the first Prickly Pear Festival and attendance has grown to over 15 000 visitors.
This fun family festival offers visitors a glimpse into South African traditional cuisine. Fantastic traditional food such as ginger beer, pancakes, potjiekos, home-made jam, a spit braai and fish braai, bunnychow and home-made puddings are all on offer. And of course the star of the show features as a prime ingredient and you can buy all manors of 'pear products' ranging from pickles and jams to prickly pear witblits, the local moonshine distilled in 19th Century copper stills.
Whether you choose to bask in the sunshine on the sub-tropical coastline, visit award winning wine estates, enjoy malaria-free Big 5 game-viewing, try traditional cuisine inspired by a multitude of cultures, bungee jump off a 216m bridge or experience the warmth of ubuntu in the townships –your wildest expectations is bound to be fulfilled.
A combination of unrivalled splendour and stark contrasts – very few places in the world can rival the magic of Southern Africa.
A celebration of festivities
Festivals, festivals, festivals!
South Africans are a festive nation and have a celebration for almost every event, place, art form, food, drink and agricultural commodity. The year has barely begun and already the festivities are in full swing. There's the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, countless mud-and-dust music festivals and the Lambert's Bay Kreeffees (Crayfish Festival) to name but a few.
It's that time of the year again for one of the biggest art festivals in South Africa – the ABSA KKNK (Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees). This is an annual celebration of Afrikaans art and entertainment that takes place in Oudtshoorn involving theatre, food, wine, dancing and crafts – not forgetting a tribute to ostriches.
The festival has come to play a central role in Afrikaans stage productions which are usually first staged at the KKNK before spreading throughout the rest of South Africa during the year.
While the festival has put Oudtshoorn on the map, the region offers so much more; and after attending the festival, it is highly recommended to explore the surrounding area as well.
29km from Oudtshoorn, at the head of the picturesque Cango Valley, lays the spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo - the Cango Caves. Situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the well known Swartberg Mountains, you will find the finest dripstone caverns, with their vast halls and towering formations.
The Cango Caves is one of the world’s great natural wonders, sculptured by nature through the ages. Trained guides are at hand to conduct visitors along the magic paths of the world's finest stalactite cave.
Any golfer’s dream destination, The Fancourt Golf Resort lies within this region and features three highly rated Championship golf courses, where play is restricted to members, their guests and hotel guests; as well as being home to Bramble Hill - the Western Cape’s premier 18-hole public course.
Since opening in the early 90's with just 27 Gary Player-designed holes, Fancourt’s Outeniqua and Montagu golf courses have matured and developed into two of the finest 18-hole parkland layouts in the country. A round on either is a special experience, sculpted and finished as they are, with rare attention to detail and designed with the coastal George winds in mind.
The Links at Fancourt was added in 2000, an awe-inspiring example of magnificent design and golf-course construction, about which designer Gary Player says: “Links golf is how the game originated and at The Links we take golfers back to the roots of golf – and they can play a ‘British Open’ all of their own!”
Lastly, Bramble Hill was added, a course that is distinctly Fancourt, yet has a friendly character all of its own. It is a course that can be tackled by beginner and seasoned campaigner alike, without the intimidation and pressure so often associated with celebrated championship courses.
Nestled amongst the hop farms in Herold, just beyond the historic Montagu Pass is the only wine farm found in the Outeniqua region. Here you will find the vineyard and cellars of Herold Wines, situated against Cradock Peak, where the cool mountain mists are ideal for making Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz wines.
Tours of the cellar, wine tasting, or an enjoyable cup of tea or coffee and snacks are followed by walks, or if you are lucky, a ride on a tractor to the vineyard.
Along South Africa’s coast you will find some of the best seafood in the world and the Lambert’s Bay Kreeffees (Crayfish Festival) is testament to this.
‘Kreef’ is Afrikaans for crayfish, and a ‘fees’ can be both festival and feast. At the Lambert's Bay Kreeffees, held end in April annually in the Cape West Coast town of Lambert's Bay, you'll feast on fresh crayfish and get festive at rock concerts by some of South Africa's favourite musicians.
After indulging in as much crayfish as you could possibly eat, there's also bungee jumping, aerial displays, a half-marathon, beer tents and more for festival goers to enjoy.
Lambert’s Bay is known as the Diamond of the West Coast and the crayfish mecca of South Africa. Snoek, a fish native to the southern hemisphere, is also available during a Snoek run which takes place a couple of times during the year. Boats from all over the West Coast flock to the town to catch this popular fish.
To conclude this month of festivities, here in South Africa we are celebrating our new golfing champion, Richard Sterne.
The diminutive 27-year-old began his year with a win on home soil when he captured the Joburg Open on the 13th of January. And he finished his 2008 in similar fashion, firing a closing round of 69 to finish on a total of -17 – good enough to secure his fourth European Tour title.
Having claimed the Alfred Dunhill Cup as well, the win takes Sterne back into the World Top 50 as he jumps to 43rd in the Final Official World Golf Ranking of 2008, up 31 spots.
Richard Sterne is fast becoming a golfer of fantastic international standards! And here in South Africa, we proudly anticipate that Sterne will follow in the footsteps of his legendary friend and fellow South African, Gary Player.
Kicking 2009 off with a win already, we can only expect even greater things to come from this young golfer for this season.
A sport lover’s delight!
Even though the sports event on everybody’s mind is the 2010 Soccer World Cup, 2009 still holds a kaleidoscope of world class sports events in South Africa!
With the Super 14 already under way, the month of April heralds the start of one of the most eagerly anticipated British and Irish Lions Tours of South Africa in 12 years. Kicking off in Rustenburg where they will be facing national teams, we can look forward to the Lions taking on the world champions for three exiting tests in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg later on their tour.
Another exciting event is the all important Australian Cricket Tour of South Africa. Competing for the ‘number one world test cricket team’ title, the stakes are understandably high for both teams.
The final matches will be decided at Durban, Centurion, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg during the first few weeks of April.
South Africa has the added pleasure of hosting the ICC World Cup Qualifier for the 2011 Cricket World Cup during April. Fifty-four matches during the 19-day tournament will determine the four qualifiers to join the ten Full Members at the 2011 World Cup in the subcontinent.
"It looks like it's going to be a great event," ICC president David Morgan said. “We know from experience that South Africa is a perfect place to host big multi-team tournaments such as this and I know the teams will have some of the best facilities at their disposal. Many of the top associates are very evenly matched and I am expecting some thrilling matches during the tournament.” he said.
In the golfing world, Trevor Immelman will be defending his title at The Masters held at the Augusta National Golf Club annually. The Masters is a tradition like no other in sport. Initially conceptualized by legendary Bobby Jones and his partner Clifford Roberts in 1934, today the Masters Tournament is one of the most prestigious and revered events in the world.
The Masters Tournament is the envy of all sporting events for it is professionally managed from within the ranks of the Club with Chairman Billy Payne now at the helm. Truly, this tournament is golf in a most magnificent setting, challenging the golfer to his limits.
With fellow South Africans Ernie Els, Tim Clark, Retief Goosen and Richard Sterne also set to compete, all South Africans will be eagerly following our golfing stars’ progress.
Back at home, the Sunshine Tour is still going strong and golfing amateurs across South Africa are getting ready to play the SAA Pro-Am Invitational, held at Mount Edgecombe Golf Club near Ballito.
This fantastic golf club is neatly tucked away in the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast.
Boasting two unique championship golf courses and designed around the natural lie and habitat of the land, Mount Edgecombe is considered as one of the premier golfing estates in South Africa.
Beautiful beaches, rocky coves and shallow paddling pools make the towns along the North Coast popular for holidaymakers who are attracted to the region’s friendly village atmosphere. Offering plenty of activities to choose from such as excellent fishing, pristine diving, surfing and year round sunbathing, the North Coast is also known as the jewel in the crown of KwaZulu-Natal’s golfing destinations with a number of world class courses dotted along the coastline.
Fairmont Zimbali Lodge is particularly well-suited for golfing enthusiasts and boasts its own Championship golf course which rolls down towards the Indian Ocean.
Set within the serene confines of a coastal forest reserve, Zimbali is a sanctuary unlike any other in South Africa. This charming and unspoiled resort is a nature lover’s wonderland. Dappled shadows from the lush vegetation and cool breezes from the Indian Ocean leave their mark on your soul.
The total estate spans 300 hectares and includes spectacular beaches and an 18-hole Championship Golf Course designed by Tom Weiskopf. The main complex, surrounded by a cluster of eight lodges, each, with its own butler, is a magnificent creation that embraces classical African architecture.
An exclusive spa at Zimbali will revitalise and refresh the most world-weary travellers with a wide range of holistic treatments, while the surrounding area offers much to see and do.
Sights like Shakaland (a traditional Zulu village), Crocodile Creek, the Ghandi Temple in Tongaat, Zulu Battlefields, Shaka's Rock, the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Tugela River Adventures, the Indian Market, Thompson's Bay and many nature rambles make up but a few of the sightseeing wonders in this area.
South Africa, it would seem, has really mastered the art of hosting fantastic sporting events and the month of April, with its jam packed sporting calendar, truly is testament to this.
A Bittersweet Farewell
The 2009 US Masters Tournament saw the curtain brought down on an era that has lasted 52 years. South Africa's Sportsman of the Twentieth Century, Gary Player, announced that this year's event was to be his last competitive participation in the Augusta Major.
Waving and doffing his cap to acknowledge a prolonged standing ovation, Gary Player genuflected on the 18th green Friday to bid the Masters goodbye after his 52nd and final appearance as a contestant.
After drawing a utility wood shot into the final green, Player took three putts from 35 feet for a bogey and again doffed his hat to the cheering crowd. He shook hands with Luke Donald and Stephen Ames, who were in his playing party, and headed up the hill to the scoring hut.
On the way, he was congratulated by Billy Payne and embraced by the South African professionals Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen, Richard Sterne and Rory Sabbatini, who had tears in his eyes as he spoke to Player.
“This has been an honor for me,” said Player, whose 83 left him at 161, 17 over par. “I’ve been blessed. On every hole for 36 holes, they applauded. I say to the American people, Thank you. It was a joy to be here and I leave with great joy. I leave with a lot of memories, a whole host of memories. I’ve always said that if they have a golf course in heaven, this is what it will look like.”
"There's a great saying that the Chinese have. They say, 'Everything shall pass.' And that's what we have got to realize,'' Player said. "There's nothing worse than you see these boxers and athletes saying they are retiring and they come back and they get their knees knocked in and they end up punch-drunk. I've had such a wonderful career, my goodness, when I think of the career I've had. You can't have it all, and I did have it all. I've had it all. You can't be greedy.''
Player is one of only five golfers to have won all four major championships, most notably a career grand slam and nine major titles in all. Winning his first Masters in 1961, another in '74, his final one in '78 at age 42. Not surprisingly, that third title is his favorite, a testament to his lifelong obsession with fitness, a crusade he carries to this day.
For one decade after another, the Black Knight teed it up with the greats of the game at Augusta National, watching the rise of Tiger Woods and hanging around long enough to see yet another wave of promising young golfers arrive on the scene, mere teens born long after the South African won the last of his three green jackets.
"I'm going to miss walking up the 18th fairway each year, but my time has come to say goodbye as a competitor," added Player, who explained that he struggled to drive the ball far enough to make him competitive. I'm exercising profusely, but it's very difficult at 73 to build strength.''
Even when his chances of winning had long since passed, Player reveled in more modest accomplishments such as making the cut, or outlasting contemporaries such as Palmer and Nicklaus. Always taking pride in being the link to another generation, strolling proudly through the Georgia pines, occasionally pulling off a shot that would cause the patrons to say, "Wow, look at ol' Gary, hanging with the kids.''
This is undoubtedly not the last time that we will see the legendary golfer at the Masters, however, as he said that should he be invited back as an honorary starter, like another legend of golf, Arnold Palmer has been in recent years, he would return.
As for the final two days of the tournament, anyone who predicted an exciting climax to the 2009 Masters at Augusta could definitely not have been disappointed! Angel Cabrera clinched victory at the second hole of a thrilling 3 way playoff with long time leader Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell.
A lot of entertainment on the front 9 came via the sideshow of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson who paired together played to some of the biggest galleries the tournament has ever seen.
Mickelson was on fire racking up 6 birdies he reached the turn in 30 equaling the course record and at that point was only one shot off the lead having started the round 7 adrift, unfortunately he was unable to maintain the momentum and it was left to Perry, Cabrera and Campbell to battle for the green jacket.
Back in South Africa we have had no shortage in exciting sporting events, but if you would like to take a break from all the sporting action for a day or two, you can treat your taste buds to a day in the country.
Cheese lovers should diarise the weekend of 24 to 27 April 2009 when the SA Cheese Festival returns to the picturesque Bien Donné farm between Paarl and Franschhoek.
Visitors are able to feast their senses on the widest selection of cheese currently available in South Africa. Whether you have a well-trained palate, simply enjoy savouring new tastes or are looking for the perfect cheese match among the delicacies galore, wine, nuts and olives to name but a few, you will be spoiled for choice at the 2009 SA Cheese Festival.
Whilst visiting this region of South Africa, you will do yourself an injustice not to play a round at Pearl Valley Golf Course.
Jack Nicklaus’s reputation as a hands-on designer is clearly evident at Pearl Valley. He sees it is as a sum of his knowledge, representing almost 50 years of international competition and decades of designing many of the world's most famous courses.
In its engineering and planning detail, the course is very rare. It is crossed by roads in only three places, and the drainage system allows play to continue just minutes after a severe cloudburst.
Just down the road, the Cape’s largest olive festival starts the 1st of May. Now in its ninth year, the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival is an original Cape Town experience. Situated an hour's drive from the City, visitors to the quaint Riebeek Valley can experience true country hospitality.
The Olive Festival features a traditional South African food village where a wide variety of cuisine favourites and olives can be sampled whilst enjoying a number of live entertainment acts. Known as the Shiraz Valley, wine tastings from surrounding wine farms can also be enjoyed.
The perfect conclusion to your cultural experience, visitors can wander through the South African Artists Walk where internationally-renowned local artists display their paintings and sculptures over the weekend.