His dream of turning professional was put on ice for a year while he recovered from a broken neck, but Teaghan Gauche is determined to realise his goal at this year’s Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park Golf Club.
The 23-year-old number two amateur in South Africa carded an opening three-under-par 69 in his first round at Bloemfontein – players have to play two rounds on each of the courses, ahead of a 72-hole cut to the top 60 players and ties.
Gauche was in a car with his friend Zander Lombard, who recently finished fourth in the Australian PGA Championship, when he swerved down an embankment to avoid an oncoming minibus at the end of 2013. The resultant fracture to his C3 and C4 vertebrae put a hold on his golfing ambitions.
“The whole year after that was a bit of a write-off,” he said, “so everything on my plan moved up a year. So last year, I just had to find my feet again, play all the stuff this year that I wanted to play last year.
“I’ve achieved more or less what I wanted to. The only thing I didn’t get that I wanted was the number one position in the country, but that’s alright. I’ll have to live with it, but the plan definitely became to turn pro after this year.”
He had a quiet start to his first round, making nine consecutive pars. “It was a little bit slow at first,” he said, “but I made three birdies on the back nine, so no bogeys on the card. In a long tournament like this, there are going to be mistakes out there, but my game’s feeling good.”
He’s not willing to throw all his eggs into one professional basket just yet, even though he is following his long-time dream of playing the game for a living. “The reason I entered as an amateur is that if I don’t get my card, I’ll have status as an amateur and I can still then play for South Africa and travel overseas.
“But, from a young age, I’ve never wanted anything else. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have very supportive parents, and if I had to phone my dad right now and tell him I wanted to be a ballet dancer, he’d say we better get to work because we’re a few years behind,” he laughed.
He left after his first year at Pretoria Boys High School to join the fledgling TuksSport High School, part of the university’s High Performance Centre, and the infrastructure and other support provided there has helped him build towards achieving his dream as well as overcoming what could have been a career-ending injury.
“The experience and skill of everyone there definitely helped me,” he said. “The rehab was brilliant because it’s geared towards sports rather than just general rehab. So now I have just a little stiffness in my neck which I treat with regular physiotherapy, and it’s getting less all the time.”
That will help in his lifelong ambition: “Number one golfer in the world.”