Golf | 14 Jan 2018 | By Michael Vlismas

Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Toto Thimba share emotional finish in BMW SA Open

Musiwalo Nethwunzi (left) and playing partner Thoto Thimba walking up the 18th at Glendower Golf Club in the final round of the BMW South African Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni. | Photo by Tyrone Winfield

The cheer that went up around the 18th at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday could’ve been mistaken for the winning putt in the BMW South African Open, hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni. But it came way before the leaders were even close to finishing. And yet it had everything to do with a triumph for South African golf.

As they walked up the 18th fairway, Musiwalo Nethunzwi and playing partner Toto Thimba carried a South African flag between them and were cheered all the way to the green. On the stage of South Africa’s most prestigious golf tournament and the second oldest national Open in golf, both golfers made a powerful statement.

Nethunzwi was playing in his first BMW South African Open. He marked this occasion by making the cut and going on to finish tied 51st on three under par with a final round of 70. His playing partner Thimba finished tied 67th on one over with a closing 74.

Both are members of the Gary Player Class of 2017/18, the Sunshine Tour’s main development squad for historically disadvantaged professional golfers. It is the professional arm of a development structure that benefits from the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) as part of the collective golf development drive in this country.

Nethunzwi is one of the major success stories of the SAGDB’s longstanding investment in his future. He was a top amateur and represented South Africa before turning professional, and he won on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour at Glendower last year. But there is no doubt that this performance at Glendower was a major moment for him.

“I was a bit emotional over that last putt. Toto and I had just hit our second shots when my caddie pulled out the flag and handed it to us,” said Nethunzwi.

“We were just so proud walking up 18 carrying that flag. Proud of our country and proud to be playing in the BMW South African Open, one of the greatest tournaments in world golf. I just kept pushing myself the whole week to play well, and I’m very happy with this performance. This is a big confidence boost for me.”

Thimba felt similar emotions walking up 18.

“It’s been a phenomenal week and we had such great support out there. It’s obviously a dream of mine to win the BMW SA Open one day, and it was such a privilege to play here.”

Their success this week comes after another Gary Player Class member, Keenan Davidse, had an impressive 2017 in which he had four top 10s on the Sunshine Tour and also led the first round of the Joburg Open in December, a tri-sanctioned tournament between the Sunshine Tour, European Tour and Asian Tour.

Davidse kept up that form with a finish of tied 43rd in the BMW SA Open on five under after a 68.

“Keenan has been playing so well and that’s motivated the rest of us in the Gary Player Class. Hopefully my performance at the BMW SA Open will also inspire them,” said Nethunzwi.

Judging by the cheer from the gallery on Sunday, it’s inspired more than just his fellow golfers.