A share of third place in last week’s tournament has put 23-year-old Callum Mowat firmly in the spotlight ahead of this week’s Joburg Open which tees off on Thursday on the West and East Courses of Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
He finished the Fancourt tournament three strokes back from Dimension Data Pro-Am winner Branden Grace after a closing round of four-under-par 68 elevated him up a leaderboard jam-packed with Sunshine Tour veterans, and that performance gave him a huge confidence boost for the week ahead.
The man who spent his rookie season on the Sunshine Tour in 2014 compiling a record which put him 62nd on the Order of Merit, and third behind Haydn Porteous and Rhys West in the Rookie of the Year race, credits his perseverance during the year for a performance which had all the appearances of a breakthrough for him.
“In your rookie year, you learn how to cope with things,” he said. “Stuff like cameras, being in position on leaderboards, playing against people who have been your idols… it was a good learning year last year. You have to take in what people are doing around you. Look at what the veterans on tour do, because they’ve been out here for long enough to be successful. So if I take a little thing from each person I come across and try to put it into my own game – on and off the golf course – that’s a big thing.
“For instance, Trevor Fisher Jnr and Ulrich van den Berg are idols of mine, and they come from Modderfontein, like I do. I’ve tried to take their mental approach to the game, the way they calm themselves down and their whole appearance. And the way it’s how you come back from a bad shot or a bad hole – I didn’t really understand how to do that, and seeing them helps me mature.
“So I came into this year with an open mind saying I’ve done my work and it’s time to fit in and play well.”
He ended up playing very well, getting it to five-under through nine holes in the final round at Fancourt, within sniffing distance of the lead. “I didn’t realise it after just nine holes,” he said, “But I looked at a leaderboard and I was tied second, and that when it actually kicked in and I thought I had a chance. I went on to the next nine just trying to keep it together.
“I felt the pressure at that point. I saw my idol Branden Grace is on top and he’s a well-known player worldwide. And I was up against him! It was a bit of pressure, but I put it aside and played my own game,” he added.
He made just a single bogey coming home as the wind swirled around Fancourt, and he was unable to pick up any more strokes to make any inroads on Grace’s lead. But that gave him enough of an indication that his game is in a good space.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “My confidence levels are obviously boosted now. I’m hitting the ball well and I’ve been working hard before the season started, and that’s paying off a bit. I’m just working on the putter to try and make a few more.”
Added to all this is the fact that he played the Joburg Open course often as an amateur. “I played here actually just before I left for the Dimension Data,” he said.
And he has especially good memories of the East Course, on which three of the rounds will be played – all players play a round on each of the East and West courses ahead of the cut, after which the final two rounds are played on East. “I actually once shot a 62 here,” he said, “so that’s good, and I won a junior event here, the Silver Vase. I have good memories coming back here.
“It’s a good golf course. It brings out the long game, which I’m doing very well at, as of last week. So I just need to bring it to this week,” he added.