When Dawie van der Walt (@Dawie1983) lost in a marathon play-off in the Cleveland Open on the Web.com Tour, it turned his season in the United States around.
While it seems odd that a loss after 11 excruciating holes can be looked at as a positive, it bears remembering that he vaulted from 114th on that tour’s money list to 22nd – and that the top 25 players on that list gain access to the hugely lucrative PGA Tour at the end of the season. And that’s exactly what Van der Walt’s dream is.
The big man who won the inaugural Tshwane Open in 2013 and the Nelson Mandela Championship later in the same year on his way to winning the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit has surprised many people by not taking full advantage of the playing privileges on the European Tour those two victories brought him.
But the Lamar University graduate in Applied Science has made no secret of the fact that he hankers after playing in the United States, closer to his Texas home than he would be if he played in Europe – and with a young family, it makes some sense, especially as he doesn’t often do well in European conditions.
The problem with his choice was he was having a bad season on the Web.com Tour: He’d missed four cuts of the six events he’d played ahead of the Cleveland Open, winning only slightly more than $14,000 with his share of 22nd in the Brasil Champions and of 23rd in BMW Charity Pro-Am.
And then came the extraordinary duel with Steven Alker in Cleveland: $64,800 later, he is nestled nicely at 22nd on the money list and looking ahead to this week’s Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kansas, where another good performance will keep him in striking distance of his dream.
And he needs to keep an eye on the requirements he needs to fulfil in order to maintain his European Tour status: “It’s a good problem to have,” he said, “but it makes things a bit much. If I don’t play the minimum number of events, I forfeit my status,” he said, posing the worst-case scenario. “I could end up playing mini-tours and have nothing. So I kind of have to keep that status.”
That’s almost a tougher problem than many of the top trans-Atlantic players face.