Erik van Rooyen has learnt plenty from his time in contention over the last fortnight and wants to emulate recent winners Jean Hugo and Vaughn Groenewald at this week’s Sun Sibaya Challenge, where he shot 66 on Wednesday to lead the first round.
“For me it’s about the mental side of things, because there’s no replacement for confidence in this game. Jean and Vaughn are so calm and so confident, and it’s good to experience that when you spend time in the mix,” said Van Rooyen.
The youngster from Cape Town played his way around Mount Edgecombe Country Club in five-under-par to set himself atop the leaderboard, which is a place he’s fast getting used to.
“It’s nice to have some consistency and I’m knocking hard on the door. I’ve put myself in contention a few times now and it’s helping me to learn. For me it’s about the mental side of things and building up my confidence,” he said.
A fortnight ago at San Lameer Country Club he was placed second after 36 holes, but faded away during the final round and went on to share 36th.
He shrugged off that disappointing finish and got straight back into the mix at the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge a week later, where he was two shots off the pace going into the final round. He kept it together on the last day at the Wild Coast and carded 72 to share 15th place. It wasn’t a win, but it was a big improvement.
“At San Lameer I played with Jean (Hugo) and nothing fazes him too much. That’s a guy who has been there many times and gotten the job done many times. I’m trying to learn from those guys, like Vaughn (Groenewald) playing gritty last week for a superb win at Wild Coast Sun.
“It’s tense stuff in the final day and you need to trust your own ability. Things will happen if you play good golf, that’s what I’m trying to get comfortable with, because I know my game is in good shape,” said Van Rooyen.
This week he’s leapt straight into pole position on five-under-par and has a one-shot lead over Michael Hollick and Mark Murless.
“You should not try to push it and I’ve been doing that when I get into the lead during the final day,” said Van Rooyen. “I’ve been learning to rely on my game plan and today I didn’t get flustered when I made bogeys. The end result was a great first round.”
Self-belief plays a huge role in professional golf and Van Rooyen wants to develop his mental game enough for a breakthrough win on tour. This week could be third-time lucky for the 25-year-old, who is clearly playing well enough for a victory.
“The Sunshine Tour is a fantastic place to compete and prepare for the international stage. We’ve got world-class players on this tour, guys that know how to win, and if you can compete against them then it’s a huge step towards the next level. My next goal this week is to string three good rounds together and hopefully that’s enough,” he said.