Coenie gets a chance to relax

Professional golf has been a bit puzzling for Coenie Stoop – until the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage came along.

Stoop is one of 80 players who will start in the second event of the 10-tournament series as the R100,000 Big Easy Tour Irene Country Club gets underway on Thursday.

And, after he turned professional at the beginning of 2010, he’s had a struggle to keep his head above water: His problem was perhaps best illustrated by his performance at the Vodacom Business Origins of Golf Selborne tournament, where he was lying second after the opening round with a fine six-under-par 66.

In conversation afterwards, he kept on referring how difficult it was to ‘play with the pros’ – until it was pointed out to him that he, too, was a professional.

He laughs about that conversation now, but it was an inferiority complex which his 66 – it matched winner James Kingston’s opening round – showed he didn’t need to have.

Nonetheless, the Stoop season record for 2010 shows he made just one cut – and it was at Selborne where he followed his 66 with a 79 and an 84 to finish in a share of last.

“I’ve got the game,” said Stoop ahead of the Irene tournament. “I’ve just got to get the mindset right.”

And, for Stoop and players like him, the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage has presented an opportunity to learn the trade in an environment which is not as punitive of failure as the main tour is.

“The feeling around the tournament is not that tight,” said Stoop, “and I can see everyone is a little more comfortable.”

Players who received their cards at the Sunshine Tour 2011 Qualifying School played in Bloemfontein last year, and the top 30 at the Vusi Ngubeni Strokeplay played in Johannesburg in January are eligible to play on the tour, as are those who finished from 71st to 150th on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

It’s a 10-event circuit of R100,000 tournaments, after which there will be R250,000 Tour Championship.

Stoop got his practice round in at Irene Country Club on Wednesday. “I like the course,” he said, “and I can’t wait to get more experience and build my confidence.”

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