- South African Open
South African Open
As part of the great Kimberley Exhibition of 1892, Kimberley Golf Club decided to hold a week-long South African Tournament, the main event comprising The Championship of South Africa, with 18-hole match play ties “open to all non-professional players who have been six months members of any golf club in South Africa”. The first winner of the SA Amateur was Denholm Walker of the Cape Golf Club, defeating local golfer H. J. Mackay by one hole.
The ball had started rolling on organized golf in the country and it didn’t take too long for a South African Open Championship to take place at the annual South African Tournament. Port Elizabeth hosted the Tournament for a fifth time in 1903 and ten players – four professionals and six amateurs – entered the 36-hole stroke play competition, with Laurie Waters winning the inaugural Open by three shots from his nearest rival. He later won the Open title again in 1904, 1907 and 1920. Only four others have won more national titles.
In 1908, the Open was played for the first time over 72 holes concurrently with the Amateur at Port Elizabeth, attracting a field of thirty; seven professionals and twenty-three amateurs. George Fotheringham won the Open with an astonishing aggregate score for that time of 294 – to be anything short of 300 was virtually unheard of in those days. Fotheringham would go on to win the title again in 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1914, five times in all.
There’s an element of mystery surrounding the iconic trophy. According to the Sunshine Tour: “There is a record in a newspaper advertisement in 1909 which refers to the ‘Open Championship Floating Trophy’, which was to be held by the amateur or professional with the lowest score in the SA Open. But there is no indication, either then or since, in the SA Golf Association records regarding how or when the trophy was first acquired or by whom it was presented. It is referred to in all instances as the ‘Open Championship Cup’ or ‘Trophy’.”
The 1925 South African Tournament, hosted by Johannesburg GC for the third time and for the second time at Orange Grove, was the first time that the Amateur was played as a match play competition and it has remained that way ever since. Sid Brews won the first of his eight Open titles, beating his brother Jock by three strokes. Three years later, roles were reversed when Jock won the Open in dramatic style with an eagle two on the 72nd hole to beat Sid by a single shot. Interestingly, all four Brews brothers were in the field: Jock (297), Sid (298), Douglas (310) and George (318).
For some reason, starting in 1931, the Open was omitted from the SA Tournament for three years so, while the amateurs teed it up in Johannesburg, Royal Port Alfred and Durban, the professionals competed in the Open at Port Elizabeth, Mowbray and Maccauvlei. In the 1934 event, all the golfers played together again at Humewood. The following year at Parkview saw the emergence of an all-time golfing great, 17-year-old Bobby Locke, who won both the Open and the Amateur contests. He would go on to win another eight South African Open titles over the next twenty years.
In 1953 at Royal Cape, the Amateur was played immediately before the Open and the winner was Roger Brews, the son of Sid Brews, beating J R Boyd 4&3 in the final. Sid was currently SA Open champion, having won the year before at Humewood, and Roger's win meant that father and son were simultaneously Open and Amateur national champions. This remarkable feat only lasted a few days though as Sid was unable to retain his title but it’s an interesting little snippet nonetheless.
The 1956 Open at Durban Country Club saw the appearance of Gary Player on the national stage, winning the first of his thirteen South African Opens. This was the start of a career both at home and abroad that was to eclipse even that of Bobby Locke, who had won his final Open the year before, his ninth win from the nine times that he had entered the competition.
The South African Golf Union in 1965 decided at a meeting in Bloemfontein that the SA Open and SA Amateur would be played separately in future, with the Open becoming a fixture on the professional summer circuit and the Amateur reverting back to its traditional date at Easter. Four years later, the competition was played over four days instead of three, as in the past. In 1970 at Royal Durban, Tommy Horton from England became the first overseas player to win the SA Open.
The European Tour co-sanctioned the event for the first time in 1997, with Fiji’s Vijay Singh winning that year at Glendower, and the tournament has remained co-sanctioned ever since.
In more recent times, Hennie Otto captured his maiden SA Open title in 2011 to continue the Rainbow Nation's dominance in the competition since the turn of the century. Scotland’s Richie Ramsay had broken an 8-year stranglehold that local golfers had on the tournament when he won at Pearl Valley in 2009, but with Ernie Els winning in 2010 and Otto claiming victory a year later, golfers from the Republic had quickly re-asserted their superiority.
Not that they have had it all their own way since then, as Sweden’s Henrik Stenson took the 2012 title from George Coetzee at Serengeti and the 2013 event was won by Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen by two strokes from Otto and Jbe’ Kruger. England's Andy Sullivan then overcame Charl Schwartzel with a play-off victory in 2015, playing one of the finest shots ever seen at the tournament from the trees on the left of the 18th fairway at Glendower.
Brandon Stone wrenched the trophy back for South Africa with his victory in 2016, before Englishman Graeme Storm beat Rory McIlroy in a play-off to lift the trophy twelve months later.
The South African Open has been held at Durban Country Club a record 17 times, starting in 1924. Two clubs have hosted the event ten times – Royal Cape (1910-1996) and Royal Johannesburg (1904-1986) – while another two clubs have been used for the competition on eight occasions: Houghton (1951-1992) and Glendower (1989-2018).
You will not find the following four courses listed below: Tempe (1905), Kimberley (1907, 1913), Potchefstroom (1909, 1912) or Zwartkop (1955) though we may add them via our provincial listings at some point in the future.
South African Open Top 100 Leaderboard
B-NL Challenge Trophy