He’s always had a swing that defies the coaching manuals, but Danie van Tonder made it work for him in impressive fashion on Wednesday as he carded an eight-under-par 62 in the first round of the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge.
He made nine birdies and a bogey around the 5,807 par-70 Wild Coast Sun Country Club to trail early leader Jaco Ahlers by one stroke.
He made his breakthrough in 2014 after turning professional in 2011, winning two tournaments – but it was his second place in the Tshwane Open which catapulted him into a race to win the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. He finished in second place, only relinquishing his lead to Thomas Aiken’s final putt in the final event of that season.
And while 2015 wasn’t a bad year – six top 10s and 23rd on the Order of Merit – it didn’t deliver the kick on to greater success many predicted. And many pointed their fingers at his swing.
But Van Tonder is nothing if not determined, and he persevered through the tough times. And the 62 seems to herald a turnaround in his fortunes. “I found something in my swing a few weeks ago, made some refinements at Sun City, and since then it’s been getting better and better,” he said. “I’m just waiting for the big day now.”
Despite the idiosyncrasies in the swing, Van Tonder is confident about what it produces for him. “My natural shot is a draw, so that’s what I go for, and sometimes I go for a straight shot,” he said. “But you will not see me hit a fade.”
With a good score under his belt, he would be forgiven for displaying some complacency. But he is anything but: “Tomorrow’s a different day,” he said. “You can’t actually take eight-under to the next day. You’ve got to start off level par and work from there.”