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THE Pretoria challenge will be a strong one when the Sunshine Tour tees off in the capital city with this week's Telkom PGA Pro-Am at Centurion Country Club.
Jaco Ahlers returns to his home town as one of the favourites after a maiden victory in last week's Vodacom Business Origins of Golf Tour Erinvale. And this marks the first time that he will tee up in this event, having never been exempt before his victory.
"It's a different frame of mind for me to be in, a new experience, and I'm just enjoying it," Ahlers said on the eve of the first round at Centurion Country Club yesterday.
He confirmed that putting will be crucial to victory this week.
"Putting is definitely the key. The greens here are quick and firm. This has always been a low-scoring course, so the player who makes the putts will win."
Jean Hugo, another Pretoria resident, ranks among the top in the putting statistics on the Tour this year and is looking to claim his first victory this year in the middle of a season that has yielded five top-10 finishes.
The local challenge is backed up by the presence of Michiel Bothma, Darren Fichardt, Mark Murless, Desvonde Botes, Dean Lambert and Kevin Stone in the field.
The Telkom PGA Pro-Am is seen as the feeder tournament to the main Telkom PGA Championship on the summer leg of the Sunshine Tour, with this week's winner earning a place in that field. And the field this week includes players who have always done well in either event.
Bothma won this tournament in 2007 and finished fourth last year he is also a former winner of the Telkom PGA Championship.
Murless has twice finished second in the Telkom PGA Championship, and in 2005 shared fifth place in this tournament.
Botes finished second in the Telkom PGA Pro-Am in 2006, while Stone was fourth that year.
And Lambert was second here last year behind champion Merrick Bremner.
Jaco van Zyl, who is second on the Sunshine Tour order of merit, is a constant threat this year in what has been an outstanding season for him.
In February he won the Telkom PGA Championship and has finished second in this event for the past two years. - Sapa