Of the seven South African players who will tee off in the 108-hole marathon that is the European Tour’s Final Stage of Qualifying School, Haydn Porteous is one likely to be watched with special interest.
The leader in the Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year race has racked up seven top-10 finishes in his opening year as a professional, since his fourth place in the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in Bloemfontein in January.
Those top-10 finishes have won him over R700,000 in the 2015 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and improved his status on the tour to such an extent that – along with Brandon Stone, Erik van Rooyen, CJ du Plessis and Denmark’s Lukas Bjerregard – he was able to get into many more of the winter events on the tour than his fellow Q-School graduates.
And while that might not get him straight into the field for the upcoming Sunshine Tour tournaments co-sanctioned with the European Tour, it has given him playing opportunities in tournament conditions which will make him battle-hardened in the mentally tough circumstances he will face at the daunting PGA Catalunya in Spain.
He’s always been a good learner about the game. During the 2013 South African Open Championship, he said of his time in Europe before heading to play on the Sunshine Tour, “I learnt a lot about the level of competition that I’m going to encounter in the future. It taught me a lot about how I need to develop my game and grow as a golfer. It was a great experience to get a bearing on what it takes overseas.”
The other South African players looking for European Tour cards starting this weekend are Oliver Bekker, Merrick Bremner, Louis de Jager, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Zander Lombard, and Justin Walters.
All of those – bar Lombard, who has just turned professional – have tasted victory on the Sunshine Tour, and will take that memory with them to Spain.
De Jager and Bremner have both won inside the last month. De Jager took his third Sunshine Tour title last week at the Nedbank Affinity Cup, and Bremner won the BMG Classic on October 19 for his fourth Sunshine Tour title.
The seven South Africans will be attempting to join Jake Roos, who earned his 2015 European Tour card by finishing inside the top 15 on the Challenge Tour last week.