THE SA OPEN CHAM­PION ON THE FUN HE HAD AT THE OLYMPICS, THE CUT-THROAT LIFE ON TOUR, AND THE LOFTY GOALS HE HAS FOR 2017. WITH BARRY HAVENGA

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - 2017 BMW Sa Open -

my whirl­wind year in 2016 may not have hap­pened had I not played a shot off the beach in Oman at the Euro­pean Chal­lenge Tour’s Grand Fi­nal in Novem­ber 2015. In the fi­nal round I duck-hooked a tee shot on 12. Be­cause the tide was out, I was able to climb down a bank and play my shot. I saved par and fin­ished sixth on my own. By a mar­gin of one shot that was good enough to claim my card for the 2015-16 Euro­pean Tour sea­son. two weeks later I scored my maiden pro­fes­sional win at the Cape Town Open. But if you had told me then that I would be re­turn­ing to Royal Cape in 2016 as the SA Open cham­pion, and a mem­ber of SA’s first Olympic golf team, I wouldn’t have be­lieved you. the olympics was noth­ing like I thought it would be. I was ex­pect­ing a nor­mal Euro­pean Tour event – but it was the most fes­tive, in­cred­i­ble en­vi­ron­ment I had ever been part of. I was in the gym early one morn­ing and on the tread­mill next to me was Ser­ena Wil­liams.The spirit among Team RSA was amaz­ing, and (ath­letes) Wayde van Niek­erk and Akani Sim­bine were in an apart­ment next door to my­self and Jaco (van Zyl). un­for­tu­nately the sa sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (SASCOC) is far be­hind com­pared to other coun­tries. It’s not an or­gan­i­sa­tion to be com­pli­mented. How­ever, they have an amaz­ing per­son in Jean Kelly, the ex­ec­u­tive man­ager, who did ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing, from fetch­ing food for horses in Rio’s har­bour, to mak­ing sure the javelin poles were trans­ported safely. I was in­tro­duced to SASCOC pres­i­dent Gideon Sam, but it was clearly an ef­fort for him to shake my hand, as he did so with­out eye con­tact or say­ing a word. It was a to­tal slap in the face. sascoc told golf rsa a month be­fore the Games that they hadn’t done any­thing for golf; no ap­parel and no golf bags.We were given over­sized ca­sual wear with a track­suit that I had to get tai­lored in New York dur­ing the US PGA, and we looked like ninja tur­tles. How­ever, I sim­ply have to be in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.That is a mas­sive goal for me. at the sa open i was asked by the press why I cel­e­brated like I had won the tour­na­ment when I holed out on the 72nd hole at Glen­dower. Daniel Brooks could still have caught me as he had a cou­ple of holes to play. But my re­ac­tion was just one of sheer re­lief. It was such a roller­coaster of a fi­nal round (7 birdies, 5 pars, 6 bo­geys). I was emo­tion­ally drained. I thought about my en­tire fam­ily be­ing present, how I had blown a big lead to lose the 2012 SA Stroke­play on the same course, and about how I could soon be hold­ing the tro­phy of my own na­tional open! two days after win­ning the open I was play­ing a prac­tice round with Ernie be­fore the Joburg Open. I was five when I first saw him, at Sun City dur­ing the Ned­bank Chal­lenge. My dad (Kevin) in­tro­duced us and he asked me if I wanted to be a pro­fes­sional one day. He’s al­ways had a watch­ful eye over me. When I ar­rived in Amer­ica for a schol­ar­ship at the Univer­sity of Texas in 2012 I had two weeks be­fore classes started, so Ernie told me to stay at his house in West Palm Beach where I could prac­tice at The Bear’s Club. grow­ing up as a golfer in South Africa you are very aware of his­tory, who has won what be­fore you. So when I lost the 2012 SA Am­a­teur fi­nal at Mow­bray (to Scot­land’s Brian Soutar) I was dev­as­tated, be­cause I

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