Double delight for Sun City champion Immelman

Trevor Immelman has double cause to be excited about his title defence at next month’s Sun City Challenge in his native South Africa.

The 28-year-old has not been back to the venue since winning the tournament 12 months ago and relishes the prospect of being introduced on the first tee as US Masters champion.

”It’s going to be great,” world number 22 Immelman told Reuters. ”It has happened a few times this year and it really is a thrill, being announced as Masters champion. You have to pinch yourself. I still don’t think I quite believe it.

”I haven’t been down there yet [to Sun City] so there are going to be a lot of people that I will see for the first time since I won. It’s going to be a nice thrill.”

Immelman, who will defend his Sun City Challenge title from December 4 to 7, has vivid memories of last year’s final round at the Gary Player Country Club where he pipped Britain’s Justin Rose by a shot.

”To hear the crowd shouting your name and offering encouragement was a feeling I’d never had before,” he said. ”When you’re playing overseas for most of the year, you don’t get that same support when you’re winning.”

Seven months ago, Immelman achieved much loftier heights when he clinched his maiden major title at the Masters, overcoming a double-bogey at the 16th hole to triumph by three strokes on a day of tricky, swirling winds.

He emulated his childhood hero Gary Player by winning the prized green jacket, relegating world number one and overwhelming favourite Tiger Woods to second place.

Life changing experience
”That was a life-changing experience for me,” Immelman said. ”I think the biggest thing it gave me was I proved to myself that if I play my best golf I can win any tournament.

”Not everybody knows that. Now I guess it’s all about just trying to find a way to play my best golf more often.”

A truly international player who has homes in Orlando, Florida and Richmond, England, Immelman plans to continue his globe-trotting schedule for the foreseeable future.

Although based mainly in the United States for the lucrative PGA Tour, he expects to play in the minimum 12 events on the 2009 European Tour to maintain his membership.

”I normally play around about 20 [events] over here [in the US] and then I’m going to make that 12 in Europe,” he said.

”I’ve got a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and I’m an honorary member on the European Tour, so I’m really in a situation where I can pick the schedule that suits my family and me and suits my game and how much I want to play.”

The only significant cloud on Immelman’s horizon is when he has to leave his wife Carminita and two-year-old son Jacob to compete in tournaments.

”Since we had our little boy, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to leave him,” the doting father said. ”He tells me straight out that he doesn’t want me to leave and that’s tough.

”We probably do have the resources to travel as a family but that’s not ideal either, bringing up a family in a hotel room. You’ve just got to try to find your balance there.” – Reuters

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