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The ABSA Superskills contest is the eagerly-awaited pre-cursor to the BCX SuperSport Shootout each year, with four teams of two players competing over four different disciplines – closest to the pin, chipping, putting and two holes of greensomes – to determine and overall winner.

The teams for the 2017 were representative of South Africa’s ‘Big Three’ sports – football, rugby and cricket – along with a team representing the loyal sponsor of the contest, ABSA.

The Tovey brothers, Neil and Mark, represented the football fraternity and were keen to defend the Superskills title they had won in fine style at Legend in 2016. Breyton Paulse had previous won four Superskills titles with regular partner Chester Williams but, in the latter’s absence, Paulse teamed up with former Springbok flyhalf and accomplished golfer, Jannie de Beer.

The cricketers were represented by Ashwell Prince – who had previous Superskills experience – and first-timer Henry Davids, while the ABSA sponsors’ team was made up of Arrie Rautenbach and Bobby Malabie.

There is usually something new thrown in to the ABSA Superskills contest to spice it up each year, but none of the contestants could quite believe it when they were told that they would need to travel by helicopter to complete the first skill in the challenge.

They were transported up to Legend Golf and Safari Resort’s ‘Extreme 19th’ which has gained worldwide recognition and acclaim. The green, sculpted in the shape of the continent of Africa, sits more than 400 metres below the tee, which can only be accessed by the helicopter ride and from which almost every player hits driver out into the blue yonder and waits an eternity for the ball to drop.

So, while contestants in previous Superskills challenges had always started with a longest drive event, the skill here was to get the ball closest to the flag from on top of the Hanglip mountain, not forgetting that the ball had to be found in order to count!

Of all eight shots hit, Mark Tovey’s was closest, missing the green but coming to rest 87 metres from the flag, which may sound a lot at first, but perhaps not considering the combined vertical and horizontal distance of some 600 metres that the ball has to travel!

The cricket team was in second position at the Extreme 19th skill, while neither player in each of the ABSA and rugby teams was able to find his ball and therefore unable to post a score.

Once they had caught the helicopter down onto the golf course, it was back to the more conventional skills, with chipping followed by putting and the cricketers and rugby players showing their deft touches in these disciplines. Prince and Davids scored maximum points for chipping, while Paulse and De Beer came up trumps in the putting stakes.

Then it was on to the two holes of greensomes, played over a par-4 and a par-3, a format in which both members of the team hit a tee shot, they choose the better of the two and play alternate shots from there. With double the number of points on offer for this discipline, it is almost always mathematically possible for the last-placed team going into the final discipline to play their way back into contention.

But on this occasion it was not to be, with both Paulse and De Beer and the Tovey brothers playing immaculate greensomes to be level par for the two holes and share maximum points for the final skill.

While their scoring saw them both overhaul the cricketers, who had started the greensomes in the lead, It was just not quite enough for the footballers to sneak into the overall lead however, as they had gone into the final skill one point adrift of the rugby duo.

And so it was that Paulse, despite having a new partner, continued an extraordinary record of ABSA Superskills success, securing a single point victory with De Beer over the Toveys and cricketers Prince and Davids just two points further back in one of the most tightly contested Superskills events in the tournament’s history.

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