In his last tournament, Morne Buys was three shots off the lead going into his final round, and imploded with a nine-over-par 81 to slide to a 33rd place finish.
This week, he goes into the final round of the Telkom PGA Championship three shots off the lead, and he believes heÂs a changed man.
ÂI felt a lot of pressure last week,Â he said. ÂIt was the first time ever that I had a chance to win a tournament and everything just got to me Â the media, everybody wanted to do everything with me and everything was just too much. It was tough.Â
But the extraordinary story of how he found himself within striking distance to win one of South AfricaÂs premier tournaments just a week after he let things go rather tamely is more than one of pulling himself together.
The 33-year-old Buys turned professional in 2004, but thatÂs not much of a story.
How he came to choose golf is the story: ÂI started playing for the first time in my life in 2003,Â he said. ÂThe first round I shot was 85 and about two months later, I was a plus-one handicap, and about eight months later I turned professional.Â
So, with no amateur pedigree Â he played just two amateur tournaments Â he ventured into the tough world of earning his living from a tough game.
ÂIÂve got a little bit of a swing,Â he said. ÂI used to play provincial level tennis, and I played cricket for Free State, so IÂve got a little bit of the basics. My whole family is full of Springboks Â my Dad was a Springbok tennis player; my uncle was a Springbok.Â
While he was reluctant to go into details, he did admit he was Âa bit of a bad boy when I was youngÂ, and he was chosen to play cricket for Free State and just never pitched up for the game. ÂI was on the wrong side of the road,Â he said.
ÂI had a little argument with the Free State cricket union, and I stopped playing cricket completely. One of my mates suggested we play golf. I told him IÂd played putt-putt, but IÂd never played golf. But they persuaded me, and they kitted me out with clubs, and clothes and shoes, and I shot 85.Â
He picked up a sponsorship from the club in Parys, and, while he didnÂt ride off into the sunset and win a bagful of tournaments, heÂs happy with the decision to turn pro.
ÂIÂm surviving,Â he said. ÂIÂm not there yet, but IÂm enjoying golf. IÂve been a sportsman since I was born.
ÂI lost my card a few months after I turned pro. I knew it was going to happen and everyone told me it was going to happen. I had to make a choice, and I told my Dad, ÂThis is me. I want to do this for a living, and IÂm going to fight and practiceÂ, and thatÂs how my next year started.Â
He got into the top 20 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit in 2010 with two top-10 finishes, and in 2011 he got inside the top 100.
But the big boost to his career came from the Sunshine Big Easy Tour in 2011: The developmental circuit gave him a chance to contend regularly, and he pulled off his first professional win at the Modderfontein event in September, and finished sixth in the Tour Championship later that month.
ÂThe Big Easy win helped a lot,Â he said, Âbut The Big Easy is not the Sunshine Tour Â thereÂs a lot of good players out here, and a lot of pressure.Â
He took a bit of that pressure off himself for the final round of the Telkom PGA Championship, however, but being blissfully unaware of the rich history of the event: ÂI see this as just another tournament,Â he said. ÂLast week, I felt too much pressure to do it Â and my coach told me to focus on me and the next 18 holes.Â
Is the Morne Buys breakthrough close?