Back where he finished in a share of second in the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School, Danie van Tonder is a completely different kettle of fish ahead of this week’s Sun Windmill Challenge at Bloemfontein Golf Club.
With more than three years’ experience behind him, a Rookie of the Year award from 2012, two Sunshine Tour victories and an incredibly near miss when he finished second on the 2014 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, Van Tonder is now testing the waters on the European Tour and the Challenge Tour.
And that makes him one of the players to watch in the R700,000 54-hole tournament, the fourth in a series of six events on the Sunshine Tour – Keith Horne took the first at Sun City, Vaughn Groenewald the second at the Wild Coast Sun, and Michael Hollick won his maiden Sunshine Tour title at Mount Edgecombe in the Sibabya Sun event.
“I had a good tournament in the M2M Russian Open,” said Van Tonder, who finished in a share of 23rd after a final round of 72. “I played well for the first three days. The last round, I tried a bit too hard to make birdies and chase the guys down. It didn’t work that well as I made a few drops and pars. Then, on the final few holes, I just went for it and made a few birdies, so I was happy.”
He has not played as much on the Sunshine Tour as he did last year, but he has four top-10s to his credits, and would like to find a victory as soon as possible. “The win is always what I try for,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you did the previous week – it’s always the feeling. You have to win. Every week is a new week. You have to start from the beginning and keep pushing for a win as soon as possible.”
While he hasn’t had a win overseas yet, he’s lapping up the experience. “It was fun,” he said. “In the first week, I was in the Czech Republic. It was quite warm. The only thing there was nobody understands English. I had to make use of my hands and fingers a lot, and it was the same in Russia.
“But I like the flying, I enjoy driving around in different countries, so it’s all been good experience,” he added.
Van Tonder, as much as he enjoys travelling, is pleased to be back in South Africa – and at Bloemfontein. “The course hasn’t actually changed,” he said after a practice round. “It’s a little dry at this time of the year. It’s not a long course, so it really is about hitting driver and hitting your seconds into the green.”
That’s the Van Tonder way – no frills.