Faithful Kruger marching to Pretoria with victory in mind

For someone who lives his life by the numbers on a scorecard, Jbe’ Kruger’s phenomenal rise over the past two years has to do with the specific numbers of 3:20.

Rather than a swing tip from David Leadbetter, it’s been this verse in Ephesians that has carried Kruger from a world ranking of 587th at the start of 2010 to a current position of 120th, as well as fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

“The verse basically says that God can do more for you than you could ever even ask for,” Kruger says as he prepares for this week’s opening tournament on the 2011 Vodacom Origins of Golf series, and which tees off at Pretoria Country Club on Thursday.

The six-tournament series is the biggest on the Sunshine Tour, and features a select group of invited amateurs playing alongside the professionals for the right to qualify for the final in September.

Kruger is back on local fairways for the first time since February’s Telkom PGA Championship, and following a solid run on the Asian Tour. And while it may appear trite or contrived for a professional golfer to be quoting scripture, or to assume that God is somehow involved in the outcome of a golf tournament, Kruger says his faith is the single biggest reason for his improvement.

“I can’t explain it any other way. I’ve always practised hard and done my side of things. But then, the last two or three years, I went through some terrible times with my family. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but my mom and dad and sister were in situations they’d never been in before. It affected me deeply.”

Kruger thought he’d hit a low point in a 2009 tournament at Prince’s Grant on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

“I had to get over to Korea for a tournament the following week to keep my card on the Asian Tour, but I just didn’t have the money. Then I shot 64 in the final round at Prince’s Grant and made enough, to the cent, to fly to Korea and keep my card. That was the start of it for me.”

In 2010, Kruger came close to a maiden European Tour victory when he finished third in the Africa Open. Then he won the Zimbabwe Open for his second title on the Sunshine Tour.

He also finished second in the Vodacom Championship at Pretoria Country, and this plus a run of third and seventh in two major events on the Asian Tour recently have him full of confidence for the week ahead.

“Mentally I’m on a different level, but you still have to go out there and perform. I’m looking forward to this tournament and playing at home again.”

By Michael Vlismas

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