Stakes high at Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am

James Kingston during the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic.

James Kingston during the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic.

It’s not the celebrity-filled gala that is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but professionals and amateurs will team up again this week at the 16th annual Dimension Data Pro-Am in George, South Africa. At stake is a lucrative purse and an automatic spot in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational this summer.

Three courses will be used in the Pro-Am rotation – the Links, Montagu and Outeniqua on the Fancourt Estate – and the prize money is robust: R3 million, with R200,000 for professionals who make the cut in the pro-am competition. Each of the 160 pros is paired with an amateur for the first three rounds, and a cut is made after 54 holes for the top 65 pros and ties. There is also a cut for the better-ball teams, with the top 25 teams advancing to the final round on the Montagu layout.

Past champions of the Pro-Am include, among others: World No. 1 Lee Westwood, Nick Price, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman and last year’s Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen. Last year in George, Oosthuizen was edged by Darren Fichardt, who captured his second Pro-Am title after birdieing the final two holes to win by a stroke. (Oosthuizen is making his first start as a U.S. PGA Tour member this week, at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.)

Looking for a leading contender this week? Search no further than James Kingston, who was runner-up to James Kamte in the 2008 Pro-Am. Kingston also made a run for the title last year, but in the final round dropped four shots before the turn, eventually finishing 14th.

No player was as sharp as Kingston over the final two rounds at last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic. He shot rounds of 67-67 on the weekend to vault up the leaderboard and finish second behind champion Alvaro Quiros. Kingston missed a putt on the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff, but still took home a runner-up check of €157,045.

Kingston has a strong history in South Africa: Last year he won the Sunshine Tour’s Vodacom Business Origins of Golf, and in 2009 he captured the European Tour’s 2009 Mercedes Benz Championship in Germany.

Another player to watch is Jean Hugo, who had a breakout season on the Sunshine Tour in 2010, with three victories, six top 10s and a spot in the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Last year in the Pro-Am, Hugo finished in a share of 34th.

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