When Dylan Frittelli was 16 years old, he came to watch the practice round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player. He walked around with Justin Rose that day. Last week in Turkey, Rose reminded the young South African of that day as they now battled each other for a European Tour title.
“That was pretty funny. I came up here to Sun City when I was 16 and when I’d finally made the decision to drop my other sports and focus on golf. I watched Justin playing a practice round and he was holding a whole bunch of wedges. Last week he was asking how old I was, and that’s when he realised he’s 10 years older than me. We had a good laugh,” Frittelli said on a day of typically intense heat during Tuesday’s official pro-am for this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The 27-year-old comes into this week’s $7.5 million tournament on the European Tour’s exclusive Rolex Series as a man in top form this season. He finished tied second to Rose in last week’s Turkish Airlines Open, and in June this year he won his first European Tour title in the Lyoness Open.
“It’s been a good season so far. If I do well the next two weeks it could set me up even better for next year. The Rolex Series events are at the top of anybody’s list, and home ground advantage will certainly aid my attempt to win this week. But yes, it’s a huge week. I’m just going to try and take it easy and get some work done.”
Another South African hoping to end a win drought by the locals stretching back to Trevor Immelman’s victory in 2007 is Haydn Porteous.
The 23 year old has also won on the European Tour this year, in the D&D Real Czech Masters, and like Frittelli also has fond memories of “Africa’s Major” growing up.
“I grew up watching this tournament as a kid and now I’m playing in it for the first time,” said Porteous.
“I remember watching the world’s best players here when it was still a limited field event. And of course I also remember the barbeque ribs on the 17th green.”
A longtime fan of the Gary Player Country Club course, Porteous says the layout is in its usual peak condition ahead of this week’s tournament.
“The golf course is always strong, and it’s in great condition. Over the next few days it will definitely harden up and have some serious teeth to it. It’s a long course and you really need to think smart around here.”