Hennie Otto (Getty Images)
Hennie Otto may have fulfilled a lifelong dream by lifting the SA Open Championship title last year, but now the South African wants to join the elite group of multiple winners of his national championship.
The 36 year old returns to Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate this week to defend his title, and admits to feeling flattered by some of the illustrious company he found himself in after holding off Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Gary Player won the trophy a record 13 times, with Bobby Locke winning nine and Ernie Els victorious on five occasions.
“Look at the names on that trophy,” he said. “You can talk about those names forever. The history that’s on that trophy, it’s unbelievable.
“Now your name is engraved on there, and nobody can take that away from you.”
Otto faces stiff competition against a field including Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace.
Otto’s 2012 campaign has yet to live up to the heights of 2011, but at 95th in The Race to Dubai he is at least safe in terms of keeping his card for another season.
The same cannot be said for many others in the field, with only the top 119 players at the end of the week returning automatically in 2013.
Tjaart Van Der Walt and Richard Bland are precariously placed at 117th and 118th, and probably need one more cheque to ensure their playing card for next season.
Amongst those looking to dislodge them are Jamie Elson (120th), Tano Goya (123rd) and Tommy Fleetwood (124th).
All three are within €3,000 of 119th placed Rhys Davies, who tees off in the UBS Hong Kong Open, so could theoretically survive with a 60th place finish or better.