He says people say if he had played cricket with the passion he has for golf, then Johan van der Wath would have had a longer career for the Proteas. But that golf passion seems to be heading towards a good payoff as he made the cut on Friday in the 2015 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School.
He survived four torrid rounds – two each at Bloemfontein Golf Club and at Schoeman Park Golf Club – and goes into the final round at Bloemfontein Golf Club in search of one of 30 Sunshine Tour Cards up for grabs. He fired a two-under-par 70 to move to two-under for the tournament, 10 shots back from the lead held by Justin Turner and Etienne Bond.
“It was a bit scrappy today, but I’ll take 70. I managed to make a lot of birdies, but there were too many drops in between,” he said. “Obviously the aim was to play tomorrow. I feel more comfortable on Bloemfontein Golf Club as well.”
Perhaps most fondly remembered by cricket fans for his 35 off 20 balls in the ‘438’ game when South Africa chased down a briefly held world record to defeat Australia in a thriller of a one-day international at the Wanderers in 2006, he was also a critical part of the bowling attack in that match, conceding 76 runs in his 10 overs to be the second-most economical of the Protea bowlers behind the four overs of part-time off-spin of captain Graeme Smith.
Ahead of him, Turner produced a six-under-par 66 at Schoeman Park, his second sub-70 round of the week, and confirmation – importantly in his own mind – that he has got what it takes to extend his fledgling professional career.
Bond also played at Schoeman Park, and after a shaky start from the 10th hole, he got his act together to come home in 31, with consecutive birdies from the third to the fifth, and then a closing eagle on the ninth by way of an exclamation point.
Behind them, 13 amateurs, including Van der Wath, made the cut, which sees 64 players competing for those 30 cards. Best of them was Kevin Rundle, who carded a four-under 68 to move to a share of third at 11-under after 72 holes.
The score of the day also came from an amateur as Drew Dreyer made a valiant attempt to sneak under the cut line with his 65, which contained nine birdies and two bogeys and a back nine of 30. But he finished on two-over at the cut, two strokes short of a shot at glory.
Inevitably, there is a plethora of other sad storylines, such as Anton Haig’s double-bogey seven on the fifth at Schoeman Park, which saw him sign for a level-par 72, one-over for the tournament and one outside the cut.
But for Van der Wath, there is the final round ahead of him and a chance of achieving a dream. “I’ve shot a 63 around here, so I believe I can go low tomorrow,” he said. “I guess even a 67 would come in handy.”