The ability of the Nedbank Golf Challenge to ignite a player"s career is well documented over the years of this tournament. And none more so than in the case of Irish golfer Shane Lowry.
Lowry made his debut in the 2014 Nedbank Golf Challenge. By then he was already an accomplished professional. But after an 11th place finish in the 2014 tournament at Sun City, Lowry took a major step up in his career when in 2015 he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, beating Bubba Watson in the process. He also went on to finish tied ninth in the US Open in 2015.
There was never any doubt that Lowry was destined for big things in the game. He won the 2007 Irish Amateur Close Championship, establishing himself as amongst the great of Irish golf such as Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Peter Lawrie, Paul McGinley and Rory McIlroy who also won this title.
He played golf for Ireland and was on two winning European Amateur Team Championship teams in 2007 and 2008. And he had a long list of amateur victories.
But one of his finest was beating Robert Rock in the European Tour"s 3 Irish Open in 2009 and while still an amateur, making him only the third amateur to ever win a title on the European Tour.
Fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington put the scale of Lowry"s achievement into perspective when he said, "You only have to look at the fact it is such a rarity for an amateur to win, such a rarity for an Irish player to win the Irish Open. So, on a lot of fronts, it is a big deal. It was very impressive."
Lowry decided to turn professional after this triumph, and even for a man as talented as himself it was a tough transition in which he missed his first three cuts as a professional. A third place in the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan was his only other highlight of the 2009 season.
Lowry made his Major Championship debut in the 2010 Open thanks to an incredible 62 in qualifying at Sunningale, where he equaled Nick Faldo"s course record here. He went on to finish 37th in the Open.
In 2012, Lowry showed signs of heading towards another breakthrough when he finished tied second in the Lyoness Open on the European Tour in July. And in October the win came when he took the Portugal Masters for his second European Tour.
Lowry showed more consistency in a 2013 season highlighted by his third place finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and in 2014 he caught the headlines when he finished second behind good friend Rory McIlroy in the BMW PGA Championship. It earned him the biggest cheque of his career and host of world ranking points.
But as Lowry said afterwards, "I don"t know whether to laugh or cry. If ever there is a thin line between winning and losing, I have just discovered it".
This season was one of his finest as he went on to claim a tied ninth finish in the Open, tied second in the Wales Open, tied sixth in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, tied ninth in the Volvo World Match Play, and fifth in the DP World Tour Championship Dubai.
His debut in the 2014 Nedbank Golf Challenge set the tone for a breakthrough season as he finished tied sixth in the BMW PGA Championship and tied ninth in the US Open before his WGC victory made him a PGA Tour winner.
"I know it will stay with me now for the rest of my career, and hopefully I've got a long career ahead of me. I've got a good exemption in Europe, a good exemption on the PGA Tour as well. So the future looks okay as of now," Lowry told the media after his win.
"I think obviously the Irish Open got my career kick started. It was great for me. But I think this is getting the next stage of my career kick started now hopefully. I feel like I've been playing good golf for the last couple of years. I've been in and around top 50 in the world and trying to get into events and trying to compete in events and missed a couple of big cuts by a shot or two this year, which is a bit disappointing. I was never too far away. So, yeah, I think this is going to give me the confidence hopefully to drive on now and win more events and hopefully the flood gates will open."