He tees off in Sunday’s final round of the R3.75-million Telkom Business PGA Championship two shots off the lead, and that’s a small gap compared with what JJ Senekal (@JJSenekalGolf) thought he would face at last year’s Open Championship.
Not that he was playing. He was at Hoy Lake as a caddie for his friend Justin Harding who had won a spot in the Open at the South African International Final Qualifier.
But he was ready to absorb any lessons he might learn, and make them count in his own professional golf career.
“It was an unbelievable experience – seeing how the boys do it over there,” he said. “It’s obviously a big goal of any guy on our tour to play there one day and to be out there with the top guys in the world. It has really given me confidence and opened my eyes for where I want to be one day in my life.”
He has taken the first big step towards getting to where he wants to be. He finally won on the Sunshine Tour when he took the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at St Francis Links last October, just four months after his Open experience.
And now he’s sure his game is trending in the right direction. “Since I had my first win, my confidence has been going up,” he said. “I worked with my Dad a lot in the off season – changing my shape, trying not to get it left. He takes me to the range every day and works really hard with me. It’s small things that creep into your game and if you can get that out of your swing then it all becomes more positive.”
His father’s words echoed in his ears as he took that first title. "Don’t stand back for anyone. You’ve got the game. Just go for it,” his father said.
As he goes into the final round at Country Club Johannesburg, he’s ready to take the next step on the journey. He brings with him an intriguingly simple approach to the pressures of being in contention. “It’s going to be the same game plan. Start from the tee, get it in the fairway, hit greens and make putts – that’s basically all I need to do,” he said.
He’ll be playing with the leader Oliver Bekker, another good friend from Stellenbosch who is two shots clear. It will be a good battle.