inside the ropes

A lesser golfer might have skulked away. But not Kyle Barker. When he hit practice balls at The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July, he looked up to see Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm in his orbit.

“I just took in the moment and enjoyed it,” says the 25-year-old. “I felt I deserved to be there and I tried to just enjoy it.”

It was a typically sanguine response from one of the most popular players on the Sunshine Tour, known as much for his warmth as his champion smile.

Yet a tough competitor lurks beneath.

His promise has quietly percolated in recent years, but 2023 proved to be his breakout year. Having signed a fine caddie in the shape of Ryan Fletcher, Barker promptly won his first Sunshine Tour event, the Stella Artois Players Championship at Dainfern, in April. He demonstrated his class by closing with a 61 to win by six strokes with a 30-under-par total.

He was suitably pleased after his maiden win, saying: “My mindset was key out there today. I played carefree golf. I didn’t mind if I made a mistake and if I did, I bounced back immediately. I’m just so proud of myself for doing this.”

More than affirmation of his talent, it also provided Barker with proof of how hard work can be rewarded.

Five months later, a strange thing happened. First, after a poor run of form he ditched his driver, opting for an older women’s one (adapted with a different shaft to manage his swing speed). He also roomed with long-time pal Rupert Kaminski at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Western Cape at Devonvale Golf and Wine Estate. And won.

The next week the pair roomed together again. This time, Kaminski landed first spot. The friendly pair were happy to share in one another’s success.

Things have happened quickly for Barker, who wants to close out the year with another win or two and also has the small matter of a December wedding to contemplate.

His fiancée, Savannah, adds balance to his life and he treasures the normality she brings. “I go home and it’s dishes, washing and cooking,” he quips. “She’s such a perfect fit for me and helps with all sorts of things.”

Born in the south of Johannesburg, Barker was schooled in Randburg and George, attending a golf academy. He now lives in Centurion which offers him a central base.


Barker’s best finishes in 2023.

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Barker’s best finishes in 2023.

13 April Stella Artois Players Championship (1st)

25 May KitKat Cash + Carry Pro-Am (2nd)

31 May SunBet Challenge – Sun City (T7th)

15 Sept VOG Western Cape (1st)

11 Oct Blue Label Challenge (T7th)

*As at 23 October 2023

My mindset was key out there today. I played carefree golf... I’m just so proud of myself for doing this

As a youngster, he played the amateur circuit and represented Central Gauteng at U17, U19, U20, Challenge Cup and Premier IPT levels. He then played at the Sunshine Tour Q-School at Killarney followed by the local satellite IGT and Big Easy Tours, earning two top-five spots and two back-to-back Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour wins in 2019.

It led to a run on the UAE’s Mena Tour, where he won the Abu Dhabi Open, and a subsequent invitation to the Sunshine Tour.

Having played just over 100 tournaments since gaining his pro card in 2017, Barker’s primary motivation comes from his self-belief. He’s never doubted that he’s good enough, and believes in the virtue of patience. “You learn more from doing badly than by winning,” he says.

With R2.1-million in career prize money, two wins to his credit, plus a second place and a tie for seventh, Barker’s trajectory shows all the signs of upward mobility. Allied to the Order of Merit (placed fifth as at the end of October), he’s a golfer who is starting to gain attention.

The very nature of the Sunshine Tour also gives Barker comfort. He loves the way it’s run, being surrounded by people he likes and the many friends he has on the Tour. Plus, the recent addition of Fletcher adds to the satisfaction and sangfroid he now enjoys.

He has a tight group of Tour friends – chiefly Dylan Mostert, Casey Jarvis, Herman Loubser and Kaminski – who actively support each other and celebrate their triumphs together.

Apart from eyeing more success in the months to come, Barker plans to become an affiliate member of the DP World Tour. And with a wedding to follow, he has his hands full.

Happily, local golf’s Mister Nice Guy seems well-equipped to manage it all.


See how Barker claimed his second Sunshine Tour win in dramatic fashion.

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