Justin Walters recognised opportunity when it knocked on Sunday and his second-place finish in the Portugal Masters paid tribute to his late mother and it sealed his spot on the 2014 European Tour.
An emotional Walters, who began the week 126th in the Race to Dubai, holed a 40-foot par putt on the 18th to claim outright second on 17 under and secure his card for next season, the South African breaking down in tears following the death of his mother two weeks ago.
“I spent the whole year worrying about what I needed to do about next year because everything was new; every week was new; there were better players, new places and I felt as every week went by that if I could just come back to that place, I’d do a better job as I kept learning,” he said.
“I felt if I could get through this year, I could get to come back. Every week was slipping by and it wasn’t really happening.
“I was getting more and more tense and then tragedy struck. That put everything in perspective. And now it’s different for me, I guess. I’m at a loss for words, but my Mum took that worry with her and it freed me up.”
It was nip-and tuck heading to 18 for Walters as he rocketed into contention with a sizzling string of four birdies from the 14th to the 17th. But he looked certain to drop a shot on the last after finding a fairway bunker with his tee shot, but holed a massive par putt and punched the air in delight before the tears began to flow.
“It is such a hard hole already, and with the wind strong off the left and water on the left, it was even harder,” he said. “It never suited my eye the whole week. I just told myself ‘just one more drive’ and I hit the worst drive into the worst spot. I managed to sneak one out and I bailed out again way right.
“And I kind of felt my Mum while I was over that putt – I really did. I asked for her help. It went up the hill and it went in. I couldn’t believe it. It was a special moment. It was the putt of my life, by a long way.
“I don't know if I can talk much right now,” he said. “Coming into the week I really didn't have any goals or ambitions, I just wanted to play and honour my Mum and make her proud.
“The putts kept dropping and I kept hitting some decent shots and the last one at the end, she made it for sure. It was probably the best moment of my career. It was so cool because I had a lot on the line.
“I don't think I have the words for it just yet. Maybe after a drink with my dad who is here with me we can fully take it all in, but at first glance I don't know how I did it. I am super proud and so happy I could honour my mum. That feels the best for me right now.”
He moved to 71st on the Race to Dubai, and he travels to the ISPS Handa Perth International in Australia in an attempt to climb in the top 60 to claim a spot in the Finals Series heading for the DP Dubai World Championship.
Should he make that top 60, it will cap a breakout year for the 32-year-old from Johannesburg.
“I’ve been kind of under the radar my whole career,” he said. “Every now and then when I have a good finish, it kind of comes out of nowhere. And trust me, no-one’s more surprised than I am. It’s a lovely feeling. It’s so nice to have it go your way for a change.”
With reporting from www.europeantour.com