He’s only been outside the top 10 three times this year, and Jacques Blaauw is takes his good form to Europe this week when he tees it up on the Challenge Tour in the D+D REAL Czech Challenge starting on Thursday.
After missing out on the 2014 season-closing South African Open Championship in January for his wedding, Blaauw made sure 2015 would be his best-ever year since turning professional in 2009 with four top-10s, two top-15 finishes and just one missed cut to find himself in second place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit behind runaway leader George Coetzee.
That missed cut came in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and, like his share of 54th in the Africa Open, came on the back of one ordinary round: He made an opening three-over-par 74 on the Indian Ocean island and his level-par 71 in the second round was not enough to get him into the weekend’s action. In East London, it was his closing 74 which saw him much further behind winner Trevor Fisher Jnr than he would have liked.
That all changed the following week in the Tshwane Open. In what may later be viewed as the turning point in his professional career – ahead even of his maiden victory in 2013 – he closed with a brilliant 10-under-par 71 at Pretoria Country Club to make Coetzee work hard for his victory there.
Since then, he’s finished fifth in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open and seventh in the Mopani/Redpath Zambia Open, proving – despite the Mauritus reverse –he can play well away from home.
While the quest for a fourth Sunshine Tour victory is still high up on his personal wish list – he won twice in quick succession after he took his first title in June 2013 – that performance in Pretoria has clearly indicated to him that he’s ready to find a way onto the international circuit.
His quality has showed since his amateur days: He received a scholarship in 2007 to attend the Oklahoma City University, from which point his game flourished. He won the 2007 Texas Intercollegiate Championship, before returning to South Africa the following year to conquer the local amateur ranks.
During 2008, he won both the South African Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play, along with the Free State/Northern Cape Open. In the same year, he represented South Africa at the Eisenhower Trophy in Australia and captained the South African four-man team for a once-off test match against France.
His skill levels mean he should do well on the Challenge Tour, which could be one way of gaining access to the European Tour.
He will be surrounded in the Czech Republic this week with a number of other South Africans, which will help him settle in to foreign surroundings. The other Sunshine Tour players in the field are Haydn Porteous, Thriston Lawrence, Merrick Bremner and Oliver Bekker.