Storm’s Caddie Joins Local Roll of Honour
Thama Jeffrey Nkonyane found himself a minicelebrity in Johannesburg when he collected the biggest cheque of his 32-year career as a caddie after helping England’s Graeme Storm win the BMW SA Open at Glendower.
He is one of six South African black caddies who have been on the bag of an Open champion since the championship became part of the European Tour in 1997. Four of them have been with foreign players rather than locals. Isaac Zwane was the first, with Vijay Singh at Glendower in 1997. Simon Masilo caddied for Ernie Els in all five of his Open victories (two of those were before the Open became co-sanctioned). Mike Sithole caddied for Mathias Gronberg at Randpark in 2000, while Solomon Soli was on the bag for another Swede, Henrik Stenson, when he won at Serengeti in 2012. Soli has travelled extensively on the European Tour.Tim Clark had Kloof CC caddie Justice “Juice” Dlamini by his side when winning at Durban CC in 2002. “This is the biggest payday of my life, and also the proudest day of my career,” said the 51-year-old from Soweto, who is a regular caddie at the Wanderers Golf Club. “It was special to win the Open in front of my home crowd, and with Graeme, who I’ve known for many years. I first caddied for him when he came here in 2001 as a youngster to compete on the Sunshine Tour. Then I picked up his bag again in the 2005 SA Open at Durban Country Club, and we finished in the top five.We always reconnect when he comes to South Africa and he calls on me if he doesn’t bring his own bagman. This time his caddie went on honeymoon, so he called and I came.”
Nkonyane has carried many bags on the Sunshine Tour and his favourites include Hugh Baiocchi, the late Wayne Westner and American Woody Austin, who briefly played the Sunshine Tour for part of the summer of 1987.
“Graeme had never played with Rory (McIlroy) before, so we knew it was going to be a stressful day, but I have to say the fans had a lot to do with his win,” said Nkonyane.“At almost every hole they cheered just as hard for Graeme as they did for Rory and that really gave us confidence. My job was to keep telling him not to get angry or upset and hurt himself. I am so proudly South African after this. This shows that we are as good as caddies anywhere in the world.”
Storm, incidentally, recorded a golfing first when his mother caddied for him at the 2000 Masters (he was invited after winning the 1999 British Amateur).