Dawie van der Walt won the first Tshwane Open in 2013, and, like many South Africa winners of tournaments co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, is grateful for the opportunities that victory gave him.
“It was life-changing,” the 32-year-old recalled ahead of the 2015 edition of the tournament, which has moved from The Els Club Copperleaf, where he won, to Pretoria Country Club, closer to the heart of South Africa’s capital city.
“The thing I was most proud about was to be able to pull it off, because there’s so much on the line for us South Africans. It presents us with so many opportunities, and that adds a little more pressure to the whole deal. And to be able to play well, it shows some character. It shows you can play with these guys from Europe, because the fields here are just as good as anywhere else.
“So the Tshwane Open is an opportunity for South Africans to play in Europe and change their lives as well,” he said.
With a share of 24th in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, and missed cuts in the Joburg Open and Africa Open, Van der Walt has not had the greatest of starts to the 2015 Sunshine Tour year. “My scores aren’t really showing how I’m playing,” he said. “I might have missed the last two cuts, but I played well in the Middle East – 20th in Abu Dhabi and 29th in Dubai. But in golf, things can change in a heartbeat. My scores aren’t great, but I feel I’m not far off.”
He was quick to draw parallels between his position and the one in which Trevor Fisher Jnr found himself in the period before last week’s runaway victory in the Africa Open. “I played with him at the Di Data,” said Van der Walt, “and he said he didn’t know what was going on with his game, it was so poor. And two weeks later, he wins big.
“That’s just the way golf is. He didn’t look like he had all that much confidence, which is kind of what I feel now, and two weeks later, he’s on the European Tour.”
Van der Walt hasn’t played Pretoria Country Club in years, but he’s looking forward to the challenges it presents. “I’ve got some good memories of the place,” he said. “I played an amateur interprovincial here when I was 18. I’m looking forward to it, even though there have been changes made to it since then, and it’s a different challenge now.”
The tournament gets underway on Thursday.