Rising Star

First things first. Luca Filippi is not Italian.

His grandfather may have been born in Balzano, but young Luca is as South African as biltong and flat vowels.

He grew up on a Cape Town golf estate and now enjoys a standing as one of South African golf’s most promising professionals, a reputation that took hold in 2023 when he twice won on the Sunshine Tour.

Filippi is now making his journey from young upstart to established pro. He’s well poised on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and is hoping to build on his best year to date.

With his outgoing personality and warm, chatty persona, you’d expect him to be a carefree, confident athlete, but he admits to tough times and mental fragility. He turned pro in 2020, just before Covid hit, and struggled to get his game off the ground. He admits to depression and anxiety in those first two years, the effects of the pandemic and time away from home clouding his mind.

Now he couldn’t be happier, or better set. He says he found the help he needed off the course and no longer looks at golf as a job. He indulges in hobbies, cherishes time with family and has a girlfriend, which has lent him perspective. It has also improved his golf.

“I have a lot of gratitude,” he says of the transition. “It’s a big thing that I found happiness off the golf course.”


When Filippi launched his pro career in 2020, he became the 23rd Sunshine Tour professional to graduate via GolfRSA’s National Squad system.

I have a lot of gratitude. It’s a big thing that I found happiness off the golf course

He looks back ruefully at his first year in the paid ranks. A 48th place on the Order of Merit wasn’t on the cards, but he plugged away and finally saw the light in 2023.

After knocking on the door with six top-five finishes, which included two seconds, his first Sunshine Tour win came at the Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship at Pretoria Country Club last August.

It was a powerful breakthrough, but Filippi admits it never felt completely fulfilling as it was a shared triumph.

That ambivalence was replaced one month later when he won the Blue Label Challenge at Sun City, a success made doubly enjoyable because it was his sponsor’s event.

It was a triumph that sparked renewed excitement within. Now that he has that key win, he wants to play at co-sanctioned events. It’s how he gets inspired: by setting new goals. His next is to get hold of a DP World Tour card, which is tantalisingly close.

Aged 24, Filippi has come a long way from the days when his father Daniel, an accomplished golfer himself, used to drive him around on a golf cart and urge him to hit balls as a young boy.


Filippi’s top six.

You look at the growth of the group and you give thanks


What it meant to win the 2023 Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Championship with Ryan van Velzen.

He started off at Atlantic Beach – “probably the windiest course in South Africa” – which doubtless helped develop his strength of hitting straight off the tee. He later transferred membership to Milnerton Golf Club (to which he still belongs), although he now lives close to Serengeti in Kempton Park. His renown has earned him an ambassadorship at the course, so he benefits from playing there when he can.

The move upcountry has benefited him in practical ways, not least in dealing with altitude (which he always struggled with) and giving him a more central base from which to work.

Inevitably, travel has its bugbears for Filippi and he laughs at the notion that the life of an itinerant golfer is one of glamour. “People see the trophies and the money, but it’s a hard grind and can get lonely,” he says. Teaming up with fellow pros is his go-to trick and has served him well.

He credits GolfRSA with much of his development. The generosity of Johann Rupert, who continues to fund the National Squad, allowed them to travel overseas and develop their games.

“You look at the growth of the group and you give thanks,” Filippi says, adding that three of the last six Amateur Championship winners are graduates of the vibrant GolfRSA programme, a staggering success rate.

GolfRSA gave him great opportunities, but he’s now enjoying the financial fruits of his success. He’s earned over R3-million in prize money and enjoys the freedom that money provides.

“You see Rory and Tiger... the money’s not the motivation, but playing for bigger things, like them, is a big step.”

Spoken like a man who has already taken several of his own.