Hendrikse to come under fire at Players

South Africa’s top ranked senior Mellette Hendrikse will have a huge target on his back when the first round of the Player’s Championship tees off at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on Friday.

Just two weeks after winning the season-opening Gauteng North Senior Open in January, the tournament favourite issued a stern warning to his peers when he held off players half his age to clinch the Gauteng North Closes Championship.

Hendrikse fired an opening six-under-par 66 at Wingate Park Country Club and coasted to a two-stroke victory with a final round 70.

The 54-year-old Akasia golfer won four provincial events and claimed a second podium finish the Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play Championship last year and camped at the number one spot throughout the season.

In the weeks leading up to the Player’s Championship, Hendrikse has been brutally honest about his desire to win the prestigious title and his preparation has been geared at giving him every chance to succeed.

However, the Gauteng North golfer knows he will every trick in the book to hold off the challengers.

“The Player’s and the SA Stroke Play are our top two events, but unlike the Stroke Play, the field for the Player’s is limited to the top 50,” Hendrikse said.

“You know you are competing against the cream of the crop and everyone who is at Sun City this weekend has fire in their belly. I’m hitting the ball incredibly well and my short game is very sharp at the moment, but there are a couple of guys that worry me.

“Basil Naidoo won in the Free State, Ramon Rahme had two solid top three finishes, Philip Bierman is a past champion and came into some form at Oppenheimer Park and Morgan Phillips and Jock Wellington are always dangerous.

“I’ll be watching my back in the first round, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll give myself a chance this year.” Naidoo could definitely be the danger man.

The 57-year-old from Greater Durban Country Club tied for third in the Gauteng Stroke Play and claimed a two stroke victory in the Free State Senior Open a fortnight ago.

The victory came just three months after he switched from a belly to a conventional putter and boosted Naidoo to third in the rankings.

“I’m still experimenting with the putter, because it takes some getting used to, but I’m happy with the progress I’m making,” said Naidoo.

“You need a good all-round game to challenge and I think my game is pretty solid right now. I’m looking forward to going head-to-head with Mellette and the top players this week.”
Like Hendrikse, Naidoo also wants to put his name on the trophy and he feels pretty confident after his first view of the course.

“We are going to enjoy the course, for sure,” he said. “It lush and green, but the rough is not too penal and the greens are running fast and true.

“The Players is a very prestigious title to win. I shot a 76 in the first round last year, but I felt I could pull it back. But then the round rained out. I felt a little hard done by, so I am really pleased that we are contesting over three rounds this year.

“It gives you a chance to recover, but it also adds to the prestige of the tournament. I think it’s going to get very interesting this year and I just want to be in the centre of the fight on Sunday.”

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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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