2015 SUPERSKILLS ACTION
The Telkom Supersport Shootout has always been about a decent mix of intense competition and networking on the golf course, with the competitive juices flowing particularly strongly among the former professional sportsmen in the group.
That level of competitiveness increases substantially, however, in the playing of the ABSA SuperSkills challenge, which takes place a day before the event, pitting specific golfing skills of teams of two against each other for a floating trophy, wonderful prizes and a donation to charity made by ABSA on behalf of the winning pair.
The Superskills format consists of four different golf disciplines, with a descending number of points awarded for first to fifth place in each discipline, and played in the following order:
Both players in the pairing are given two golf balls – with no practice shots allowed other than those they have hit on the driving range – and have to land a drive within the ‘tunnel’ created by signage down the middle of the fairway. Each qualifying drive is measured and the longest distance achieved by either of the two players counts for their team.
Each player has just one opportunity to hit the bunker shot – which is played from an even lie, but usually slightly downhill and breaking towards the hole – from behind the chosen green. The closer of the two shots from each pair counts for their team.
Supersport’s Dave Usendorff is tasked with setting the teams a putt of some 30 feet, with some break, the advantage to the teams trailing at the halfway mark being that they get to watch the break as the leaders putt first. As with the bunker shot, the closer of the two putts per pairing counts for the team.
Whereas there is theoretically somewhere to hide for the weaker of the two players in the opening three disciplines, only strong teamwork will suffice for victory in the final greensomes challenge. Two holes – a par-4 and a par-3 – are played by the pairings, with both hitting a shot off the tee before choosing their preferred tee shot and playing alternate shot from there. Just to spice things up a little, double points are available for the greensomes, meaning no pairing is out of the contest going into the final discipline.
The 2015 edition of ABSA Superskills was once again a tightly contested and exciting affair with two-time past winners Chester Williams and Breyton Paulse staging a strong comeback after some early disappointment, to emerge victorious in a playoff against former Bafana stars Neil Tovey and Shaun Bartlett.
After the first two of the four disciplines, the rest of the pack were all chasing former Proteas Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener, who had taken first place in both the longest drive and bunker shot competitions, ‘Polly’ having found the fairway with a drive of 277 metres and ‘Zulu’ following that with a beautifully weighted bunker shot from a downhill lie to within three metres of the pin.
Williams and Paulse won the putting contest to draw closer, although the cricketers still held a comfortable enough lead going into the final discipline, the greensomes. And, with double points on offer for the fourth and final contest, they looked completely in control after making a birdie two on the first greensomes hole.
However, they allowed everyone back into it with a disastrous double bogey six on the par-4 10th hole and placed fourth out of the five teams in greensomes.
That allowed both Williams and Paulse, and Tovey and Bartlett to catapult ahead of them into a tie for first place and set an exciting ‘sudden death’ chip-off to determine the winner.
All four participants were presented with a tough shot from the semi-rough to a tight pin position not allowing them much green to work with. The contest was simple; closest to the pin would win, and it was Paulse who produced a shot of terrific touch and skill to win ABSA Superskills for him and Williams for the third time in four years. Tovey and Bartlett had to be content with second, with Klusener and Pollock in third and ABSA’s Arrie Rautenbach and Jason Quinn – with partners Graeme Watson and Sampie PIenaar – in fourth and fifth respectively.
Rautenbach, who was the defending Superskills champion with Watson, was on hand to present a cheque for R20 000 on behalf of ABSA to the winning pair, who get to nominate a charity to receive the funds. The Springbok wingers once again chose long-time Shootout beneficiary, the Gozololo Centre for Needy Children, to receive the funding.
For the ten participants, ABSA Superskills is a great way to kick off the weekend. They get an early taste of playing under the watchful eye of Supersport’s cameras and the competitive spirit between them is palpable.
With the event moving to the Legend Golf and Safari resort this year, there will no doubt be some exciting new challenges and shots for the participants to take on.