Van der Merwe caps breakout season with Freddie Tait Cup win

GolfRSA No 1 Altin van der Merwe capped a breakthrough season with his biggest career achievement when he lifted the prestigious Freddie Tait Cup as the Leading Amateur in the 2023 Investec South African Open Championship at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate; credit GolfRSA.

3 November 2023 – Altin van der Merwe proudly took his place alongside 2023 champion Dean Burmester during the presentation ceremony, excited to receive the prestigious Freddie Tait Cup as the Leading Amateur in the 113th Investec South African Open Championship.

The 27-year-old had already wrapped up the award by Friday evening, emerging as the sole amateur to make the 36-hole cut at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate, and weekend rounds of 73 and 74 saw him finish in a tie for 57th.

“I’ve had a blast,” said Van der Merwe after completing his final round. “I knew when I came out here that it was going to be a tough week. I played pretty solid. I left a couple out there, but I also had some great moments, like the 30m eagle putt on the 18th on moving day. It’s been a dream week, and I am taking much more away than just the Freddie Tait Cup win.”

Van der Merwe’s first taste of professional golf on the DP World Tour has certainly been an eye-opening experience for the man ranked No 1 on the GolfRSA amateur ranking.

“I’d love to know what other courses are like on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, because I have never played anything this tough or this long,” he said. “Every aspect from tee to green is tougher and longer and it was really stressful, even though the professionals have all been really good to me.”

Freddie Tait Cup winner Altin van der Merwe celebrates with SAGA President Henk Smith & GolfRSA CEO Grant Hepburn at the 2023 Investec South African Open Championship at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate; credit GolfRSA.

He also got an idea of the scale of the step up required to compete against the world’s best professional golfers.

“I’ve learned that I need to be more precise,” said Van der Merwe. “On every putt, every drive – everything I do. It doesn’t matter what shape you hit or whether you’re coming out of the fairway or the rough, you must be precise because there is very little margin for error. It’s a lot tougher out here.”

It’s been quite the year for the Bellville golfer. The GolfRSA No 1 has been in red-hot form this season, racking up five provincial wins and impressing abroad with a runner-up finish in the Scottish Men’s Open, a 10th-place finish in the Brabazon Trophy and a tie for 12th in the St Andrews Links Trophy.

The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation member also made his debut alongside world No 1 Lamprecht and Maas in the Eisenhower Trophy in Abu Dhabi in October, where the trio finished seventh, recording South Africa’s best finish in the 33rd World Amateur Team Championship since 1982.

Now his name will be etched on the trophy below those of Major champions Bobby Locke, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman, and other some other legends of the game who went on to win the South African Open including Dale Hayes, Tony Johnstone, Hennie Otto, Branden Grace and Brandon Stone.

“It’s ridiculous to think that five days ago, I didn’t even know what the Freddie Tait Cup was. What an incredible honour it is to join some of the greats of the game,” he said.

“This year has been a wild ride, and I am so grateful to GolfRSA for giving me so many opportunities to improve and advance my career, and to the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation for all their support. I also have to give the crowds this week a shoutout. I had an absolute blast playing in front of the fans, they were amazing and incredibly supportive.”

2023 Investec South African Open champion Dean Burmester and Leading Amateur Altin van der Merwe celebrate at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate; credit GolfRSA.

It was an emotional Dean Burmester who lifted the Championship trophy after he triumphed and claimed back-to-back titles on the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour.

Burmester, the winner of last week’s Joburg Open, drew on all of his experience to post a final round 68 and add his name to the greats of South African golf with a winning total of 11 under par.

“Back-to-back – I’ve never done that before,” said Burmester, who also claims the double of having won both the South African PGA Championship as well as the Investec South African Open.

“To win this championship sponsored by a bank that gave me my first break is very special. It’s very emotional for me. I wanted to win this for the late Sam Hackner of Investec. I was waiting tables to make enough money to play tournaments. I’d go and practice in the morning and be tired because I only got home at 11pm from work. With Investec’s sponsorship, Sam gave me the opportunity to go and fulfil my dream. Six months later I won my first tournament and the rest is history.”

World No 1 amateur Christo Lamprecht (76-74) and last year’s Freddie Tait Cup winner Christiaan Maas (73-73) were among the casualties of the cut that fell at level par and left 71 players in the battle for glory over the last two rounds.

Other amateurs to miss the cut included Jordan Burnand, who rallied with a one-under-par 71 after an opening 80, and the country’s top junior, Dan Bennett, who followed up a first-round 72 with a 79 in the second round. The final two amateurs to miss the weekend action were the qualifiers, Ivan Verster (78-77) and Keagan Crosbie (76-78).