He was playing for dinner against one of his playing partners in his practice round at St Francis Links, but JJ Senekal (@JJSenekalGolf) had bigger fish to fry ahead of the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung there which tees off on Wednesday.
“The practice is going well here – I’m one up against Drikus van der Walt, so I might get dinner tonight,” he laughed.
The course was the scene of his maiden win on the Sunshine Tour last year, and Senekal is back at St Francis Links to defend his title which he won when he defeated Titch Moore in a play-off to take the series finale last year.
“Last year was my first win and it was unbelievable,” he said. “I love this golf course – the grass, the greens, the slopes… everything – so I have really good memories.”
And, in the third event of the 2014 series, he is in the midst of a quiet 2014 which was lit up by a third place finish in April’s Telkom Business PGA championship – ironically, behind Moore who beat Ulrich van den Berg in a marathon play-off.
“The game is coming back,” he said. “I’ve been struggling a bit with ball-striking, but today has been better, and yesterday was also better. I’m positive and in a good place right now.”
That third place was the biggest payday of Senekal’s young career – he’s playing the Sunshine Tour for the fourth year – and has helped him into his current 29th position on the 2014 Order of Merit, and he will be drawing on those good memories as well as those from St Francis Links last year as he looks to add to his four career top-10 finishes.
He will be up against Vodacom Origins of Golf ‘royalty’, including Jean Hugo, who took his ninth title in the series last week at Arabella Golf Club. Other players who have titles in the series include Moore, Van den Berg, Adilson Da Silva and Danie van Tonder.
Those alone make for a formidable challenge for Senekal, with 30 top-10 finishes this year alone between them. That means they bring both form and consistency into the tournament, and Senekal will have to be at his best to repel that kind of challenge.
“You want to put yourself up against the best,” said Senekal. “Jean’s won I don’t know how many, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to put up a challenge this week, but we’re all looking forward to it.”
Desne van den Bergh led the 15 qualifiers into the tournament, shooting a three-under-par 69 to head Adrian Ford, Torben Baumann, Derick Petersen and Le Roux Ferreira into the 72-man field. Maritz Wessels prevailed in a four-man play-off against Divan van den Heever, Jeff Inglis and Stuart Smith to claim the last place in the tournament.