Van Rooyen Claims 1st Sunshine Tour Title with Birdie-Birdie Finish

February 12, 2017 | 3 min.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Erik Van Rooyen turned professional in 2013, right after he completed his college career at the University of Minnesota. The native South African didn't get his first victory as a pro until last June, when he returned to Minnesota and won the Tapemark Charity Pro-Am. Basically, he did it by overpowering Southview Country Club, where he was 13 under par (200) for three rounds and played the 12 par-5's he encountered in 11 under, averaging well over 300 yards with his driver in the process.

During the last two rounds in that tournament, Van Rooyen hit three wedges, two 8-irons two 7-irons and a 6-iron for his second shots to the par-5's. 

His power came in handy again over the weekend back in South Africa, and it helped him claim his first title on the Sunshine Tour. 

Van Rooyen trailed Makhetha Mazibuko and Dylan Frittelli by a stroke on Sunday with one hole remaining at the 7,884-yard Eye of Africa Estate course (a golf ball goes a long way in Johannesburg, which is at an altitude of 5,751 feet, 500 higher than Denver). But he birdied the 536-yard, par-4 18th hole to tie for first and earn a spot in the playoff. The playoff began at the 18th, and Van Rooyen birdied it again, this time by hitting his second shot to within a foot of the cup. He tapped in from there to win the Eye of Africa PGA Championship.

His inaugural victory in his home country was worth 237,750 South African rands ($17,831.25 in U.S. dollars). With that, the former Minnesota State Amateur champion (2012) moved up to No. 23 on the 2016-17 Sunshine Tour Order of Merrit, with 898,324.09 Rands in 17 events. (The Sunshine Tour has an overlapping schedule that begins in July.)

Going into the final round, Van Rooyen trailed 54-hole leader Dean Burmeister by four strokes. Mazibuko and Frittelli were both three behind. 

Van Rooyen closed with a 5-under 67 and completed 72 holes with a total of 272 (16 under). Mazibuko, who bogeyed the 18th hole in regulation, and Frittelli both shot 68's. Burmeister, who was the runner-up last year (he lost in a playoff), could do no better than a 73 on Sunday and missed the playoff by a single stroke with an aggreagate of 273.  

"I've been in there a few times in the years that I've been on the Sunshine Tour," Van Rooyen said after receiving the first-place trophy, "and I think today I really held my composure nicely. I think that's where I slipped up in the past. But today I got it done and now the emotions are boiling over a little." 

Van Rooyen gets to play in five or six European Tour events each year, the ones that are co-sponsored by the European and Sunshine tours. Two of those are coming up in the next three weeks -- the Joburg Open (Feb. 23-26) and the Tshwane Open (March 2-5). 

So far, he has played in two events, made the cut in one, and he's No. 172 on the money list with 9,480 euros (which were worth $1.06 as of Sunday). 

Last year, Van Rooyen played well in a couple of early events and was as high as No. 44 on the Euro Tour money list after his first three tournaments. He was also No. 2 in the stats at that point for Greens in Regulation (behind only Rory McIlroy), and in the top 10 for Driving Distance. But he played in only three more Euro Tour events during the remaining 10 months of the schedule and ended up No. 188 on the money list with 52,731 euros.   


Eye of Africa PGA Championship

Eye of Africa Golf Estate

Par 72

Johannesburg, South Africa

Final results (money earned is shown in South African rands, which were worth $0.075 as of Sunday)

1. Erik Van Rooyen            237,750       69-68-68-67--272 (won playoff with birdie on first extra hole) 

T2. Makhetha Mazibuko     138,150       73-66-65-68--272

T2. Dylan Frittelli                 138,150       71-69-64-68--272

4. Dean Burmeister               73,650       66-67-67-73--273

T5. Ross McGowan              53,100       70-67-70-69--276

T5. MJ Viljoen                       53,100       65-69-70-72--276

T5. Christian Bezuidenhout  53,100       67-68-68-73--276

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