Johannesburg - South African golf’s man of the moment, Erik van Rooyen, can pat himself on the back for sealing a spot in next year’s British Open, even though his qualification did not come by way of a win.
The 27-year-old golfer from Bellville in the Western Cape finished second after India’s Shubhankar Sharma at the Joburg Open at the Randpark Golf Club last Monday. He trailed by three shots in the final round of the rain-interrupted contest.
Also known as the Open Championship, the British Open is scheduled to tee off at the Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland, on July 19.
One of the criteria for participation in the major is to finish in the top three at the Joburg Open. That gives Van Rooyen and compatriot Shaun Norris, who came tied third at Randpark, the right to join Sharma at Carnoustie.
But Van Rooyen, who plays in the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, is glad to book a place at arguably the world’s oldest tournament, even though he did not lift any trophy on his way there. The Challenge Tour is the second-tier men’s professional golf tour in Europe.
Van Rooyen won the Eye of Africa PGA Championship at the Signature Golf Estate at Eikenhof on the Sunshine Tour in February. His other victory was at the Hainan Open in China, on the Challenge Tour, in October.
“I’m obviously extremely happy, because I’m playing my first Open Championship this coming year, so I’m really stoked,” said Van Rooyen.
He carded a final round 66 for a total of 20-under-par 267 at Randpark.
“But I don’t think anyone wants to qualify by having finished second.”
He regards himself as being fortunate to book a place at the championship. It will feature local favourites, including his friend Dylan Frittelli. This will be Frittelli’s second appearance at The Open, after finishing 30th at the 2017 Race to Dubai and bagging two victories on the European Tour. He won the Lyoness Open in Austria in June and the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open two weeks ago.
Other local top golfers who that will be in Scotland are Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Richard Sterne.
“Dylan is a great friend of mine and it will be cool to be with him in Scotland. It’s also great to play alongside other South African boys at an event with such rich history.”
He turned professional in 2013 and is looking forward to the SA Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club in Ekurhuleni early next year to cement his standing.
“I intend to take two weeks’ Christmas break before I start preparing for this event. Winning it will be a great way of starting the new year and be in shape for the championship,” Van Rooyen said.
He regards the SSE Scottish Hydro Open, played under the banner of the Challenge Tour in Scotland in June, as his toughest test so far. He finished 13th.
“The weather was terrible at the venue, with too much wind and strong rain that made play hell.”
Van Rooyen is coached by Western Cape-based mentor Val Holland.
“She’s been training me since I was 14 and I enjoy working with her.”
Norris will be making his second consecutive appearance at the British Open. Last season, he earned his spot via his exploits on the Japan Golf Tour, where he finished seventh on their order of merit.