South AfricaÂs Dylan Frittelli returned to the South African Open Championship this week, and in many ways it was the place where it all began for him. He first qualified for the SA Open in 2006 at Humewood, and three years later he well and truly put himself on the map by clinching the Freddie Tait Cup for finishing as the tournamentÂs leading amateur at Pearl Valley Golf Estate in Paarl.
This week he entered his national open for the first time as a professional after turning pro in June. Frittelli was forced to pre-qualify for the event, and sadly for him his one-under round of 71 at Benoni Country Club meant he missed out narrowly on qualifying for the showpiece starting on Thursday.
ÂIÂm obviously disappointed to have missed out on qualifying. Getting back on Monday from Europe didnÂt leave me much time to prepare. But itÂs the beginning of my professional career, and hopefully IÂll get to play in many more South African Opens in years to come,Â he said.
Frittelli arrived back from Spain ahead of the SA Open after successfully securing a place in the final stage of European Tour Qualifying School last week. Securing his card would be a massive achievement so early on in his professional career, but the Sunshine Tour is still very much a part of his plans.
ÂHowever it works out with q-school in Europe, IÂm definitely looking to come back here and play Tour School in January. Hopefully, I can also get a couple of invites for the Nelson Mandela or the Dunhill. It would be awesome to play in those events and end off well on the Sunshine Tour this year,Â the 22-year-old said.
The Pretoria-born golfer has already had a taste of the European Tour as he played in a number of events this year. His first event as a professional was the BMW International Open in Cologne where he finished in a commendable tie for 33rd place. HeÂs played in six further events courtesy of sponsor invites acquired through his representative company IMG, and proved that he is far from being out of his depth.
ÂI definitely feel like things are on track. In seven events in Europe I made two cuts. It doesnÂt sound like a great number, but I was one shot out in two of them and only a couple of shots out in the other ones so I was always around the cut-line.
ÂTravelling around Europe really helped me a lot. IÂve never played over there besides one tournament in Germany as a junior. It was my first taste of Europe travelling alone so I think I coped pretty well. I made a little bit of money with those two cuts, and really enjoyed it over there. It was a great experience,Â he said.
It was during his junior years that Frittelli emerged as a prodigious talent, and it culminated in his triumph at the South African Boys Championship in 2008. This helped him attain a golf scholarship to the University of Texas, and proved to be the beginning of a glittering amateur career.
During his time in the States, he scooped prestigious accolades such as the NCAA Championships, the Byron Nelson award (for collegiate with best golfing, academic and community service record), and also earned First Team All-American status. His game was well-developed by the time he graduated, and he elected to turn pro soon after.
ÂIt wasnÂt necessarily my plan to turn pro after college. But IÂd said that if I had a good final year then I would want to do it so that I could keep the ball rolling and continue that good golf into the pro ranks. I ended up having a great year, so fortunately it was an easy decision to make,Â he said.
Having already made such a positive start to his professional career, few would argue that Frittelli made the correct choice. The talented South African has garnered invaluable experience all over the world, and now seems well poised to make his mark.
South Africans will also be delighted to hear that the Sunshine Tour forms a major part of his future golfing endeavours, and he seems well on his way to following in the footsteps of this countryÂs finest golfers. Securing his card for the European Tour next year would be a significant breakthrough, but this amiable young man appears to have the golfing world at his feet.
By Michael Todt