Darren Fichardt may have missed out on winning the Joburg Open at Houghton Golf Club last weekend but the 48-year-old from Centurion was all smiles when he finished as runner-up to compatriot Dean Burmester.
Banking the runner-up cheque was one thing but cementing his spot in the 2024 Open Championship draw at Royal Troon, which was on his mind even before the Joburg Open began, was his major goal for the weekend.
The top three finishers at the Joburg Open were guaranteed places in the main draw for the 2024 Major Championship at Royal Troon.
Fichardt, Burmester and Dan Bradbury will travel to the UK for what will be his seventh attempt to make the cut at The Open Championship.
Fichardt pocketed $120,446 (R2.2million) for what must be considered one of his best performances at this event.
Bradbury, who eventually finished third, went home with $68,982 after putting up a wonderful defence of his title over the four rounds.
Fichardt, the veteran Sunshine Tour professional who also plays on the DP World Tour – he has full playing privileges on that tour for the next two years – played The Open in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2017.
He also played the US Open Championship in 2017 but failed to make the cut there too.
However, the 48-year-old – a little older but much wiser these days – is using his vast experience to get around the course and is playing against some top-class young players who have risen to the top of the professional game.
And one of them was Nikhil Rama, who played brilliantly throughout the tournament, finishing in an impressive sixth spot while earning $38,323.
The DP Tour commentators were raving about the youngster’s attitude, approach to the game and more important, his magical temperament during the tense final round.
He was in the mix right through the 72 holes, having carded 65 in the first round and followed it with an eight-under 62 in the second round.
Playing on the Sunshine Tour, Rama has recorded six top 10 finishes so far. He has accumulated just over a R1 million in earnings since turning professional and his best pay cheque was at the Joburg Open last weekend.
Rama is currently ranked 1,214 in the official world golf rankings. His career-best ranking is 1,088, which he achieved last year.
Rama’s best finish on the DP World Tour came last season at the same tournament, the Joburg Open, where he finished in a tie for 33rd.
While he may have missed out on one of the three automatic spots for the 2024 Open Championship at Royal Troon, Rama’s turn will no doubt come in the not-too-distant future.
He is undoubtedly a talent to watch and has the game to go with it.
He has the opportunity to make a name for himself once again as he tees it up at the Investec South African Open being played at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate in Johannesburg from today until Sunday.
Rama, who turned pro in 2020, opened the Sunshine Tour season tied for 10th at the Zanaco Masters and fifth in the opening tournament at Zebula Golf Estate in Limpopo.
The Bryanston Country Club member said he has put in an enormous amount of work on the course with his coach and has found a more consistent rhythm with his technique.
“I’m very grateful to receive this invitation. It’s an honour to play in our national Open, which is one of the oldest golf tournaments in the world. I’ve been playing really well, and I’m very excited to compete at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate,” said Rama.
“I’ve been working really hard on my technique with my coach, and it’s now becoming more consistent. I can’t thank Investec enough for this invitation at this time. It’s a great reward after playing some good golf this season,” Rama said.
Peta Dixon, head of sponsorships for Investec, said Rama played a wonderful season and earned his way into the Investec SA Open, which features 156 golfers and a prize money of around R27 million excluding other prizes.
“With Heinrich Bruiners qualifying by virtue of his rankings, it has now allowed us to invite Nikhil Rama to compete and thereby strengthen the presence of the Papwa Sewgolum Class professionals in the Investec South African Open field,” said Dixon.
“This means even more of our young stars will gain invaluable experience playing against international competition.”
Last year’s winner, Thriston Lawrence, took home around R4.4m in prize money after dominating the field in the 2022 SA Open.