He won his first Sunshine Tour title when he took the wind-affected Wild Waves Challenge in August 2014, and that gave a hint of what Colin Nel could do given the chance – a chance he grasped with a second-round 70 in the 104th South African Open Championship.
That moved him into a share of third going into the weekend, two shots off the pace set by England’s Andy Sullivan and one behind 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
The victory was the only top-10 performance in a year of mixed fortunes for the Maritzburg Golf Club man, but there were periodic rounds which suggested he could get himself into contention in events which could make a difference to his career trajectory.
And his opening 68 in his national open championship at a very tough Glendower Golf Club was one of those rounds, as was his follow-up 70 ahead of the cut.
“When it’s tough like this the good shots are rewarded and bad shots are penalized,” he said of his second round. “The cream will come to the top and the players that are doing well will make their way up the leaderboard.”
It could easily have ended in tears for him after his start on Thursday. He started with a bogey and a double on one and two, but he held things together with six birdies and only one more bogey. “I got off to a rough start today, but being patient is the name of this game. As a youngster your dad says ‘chip out here, play there,’ but you go for miraculous shots. Over the years you learn it.
“When I am missing it I’m taking the punishment and chipping out and playing for bogey. You might get lucky here and there and make a par, but I’m just taking it step by step.”
And that’s the key to his presence so high up on the leaderboard in the SA Open. It’s an event he’s dreamt about doing well in for years. “I’ve been watching this tournament for years and I played in 2005 as an amateur. That got the bug going, but to be here and in contention is a great achievement,” he said.
He’s got two more rounds to keep things going. “I’m going to enjoy the weekend. I’ve got my game plan and the goals I want to achieve, and if I can do that then I’ll be happy. It would be nice to win my national open, so it’s in the back of the mind. First step is to take on tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” he said.