“Go Rambo!” proclaimed the banner held proudly aloft by a group of ardent Christiaan Bezuidenhout supporters during the BMW South African Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, which ended at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday.
And the 21-year-old Sunshine Tour rookie, playing alongside winner Brandon Stone, certainly did go some.
Bezuidenhout closed with a 67 for a 12-under-par aggregate to finish second in his first start 0n the Sunshine Tour this season in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour and the reward for his superb exhibition was a cheque for a hefty R1,725,000 – a massive boost for his fledgling career in the pro ranks.
“He’s been playing golf even before he started school,” said dad Conrad as he watched his gifted son challenge for top honours in the world’s second oldest national open to which he received an invitation.
Conrad was heading up a hardy, enthusiastic and noisy band Rambo supporters from the farming community of Delmas, a small town east of Johannesburg where Christiaan learnt his golf on the town’s nine-hole course.
“I don’t play golf, but I’ve been driving Christiaan around to tournaments ever since he was small so I’ve learned to understand the game,” says mom Margaret.
“Christiaan an extremely active little guy who wasn’t scared to take chances and embark on little adventures. Since there were two Christiaans in the crèche, his teacher – Tannie Elsie – nicknamed him Rambo and it stuck.”
Christiaan’s girlfriend Bernice Lubbe had to return to Potchefstroom University to resume her studies, but his brother Conrad, and sister Chane were also behind the ropes, yelling for their ‘boet’.
Conrad senior believes one of the reasons for his son’s excellent form is because of his nine-month enforced break from tournament golf while still an amateur for his use of beta blockers.
Bezuidenhout was South Africa’s number one ranked amateur when he failed a dope test at the 2014 British Amateur and the International Golf Federation initially banned him for two years.
But when it was discovered he had been prescribed the drug by his doctor ever since he was a youngster to help cure a severe chronic stutter, his ban was reduced to nine months and immediately after it was lifted last March, he turned professional.
“In those nine months, he practised all day every day, so in a way it wasn’t a bad thing as he just improved and improved,” said Bezuidenhout snr.
And Rambo displayed that improvement in December last year when he fought back impressively from being 14 shots off the pace after two rounds to win the 90-hole Sunshine Tour Qualifying School marathon, eagling the final hole in the final round to seal the deal and gain playing privileges for 2016.
“This guy can play – he’s the real deal,” enthused commentator Dale Hayes, himself a former SA Open champion as he watched the young professional go about his business Sunday.
“’Go Rambo’ is something we’re going to hear quite a lot in future.”
This young man’s on the adventure of his life. And he’s got a good deal of cash in his back pocket.
Like 22-year-old Stone, he’s a young South African on his way to stardom.