The 2014 Sunshine Tour season reaches its crescendo at the 104th South African Open Championship this week. Rookie of the Year leader Haydn Porteous has to run a gauntlet that starts at pre-qualifying on Tuesday.
“I’m not into the tournament, so I have to pre-qualify tomorrow at Zwartkop. We’ll hope for a good round and then approach the tournament. I’ll take this week one step at a time, because you can’t get ahead of yourself. It’s about staying in the moment,” he said.
The world number 333 teed up in his national open as an amateur and also won the South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Glendower in 2012.
“Playing the SA Open as an amateur is quite nerve-wracking. The first year I got in through my amateur ranking and it’s not the easiest. You start to think ‘Do I deserve to be here?’ while hitting balls on the range next to Ernie Els and Tim Clark. I was 17 when I played, and it was a very big deal. I haven’t been able to play it for a couple of years, so getting in this year would be nice,” he said.
Finishing in the top 30 at the Qualifying School in January is the first trial en route to a professional career on the Sunshine Tour. From there the rookies who earn their cards must perform well enough over the season to retain playing privileges.
The top rookie of the season wins the prestigious Bobby Locke Trophy and Porteous will be keen to get his name engraved onto the silverware.
“I got my tour card through the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and I think anyone who gets their card that way sets a goal to win Rookie of the Year. You only get one chance and to do it is something you always want.
“Things have gone my way and I’ve made it into some tournaments that I didn’t expect to, but I played the golf I needed to play and I’m pretty chuffed with that,” he said.
The 20-year-old is over R100,000 clear in the standings, but there is big cash on offer at Glendower Golf Club this week. In order to tee up at the legendary parklands course he’ll need to win one of the 14 spots available at pre-qualifying, which is concurrently held at Kempton Park Golf Club, Irene Country Club and Zwartkop Country Club.
The future stars all have to take the hard road through pre-qualifying. It’s a trial by fire that helps to prepare the next generation for how hard they’ll have to grind on the Sunshine Tour circuit.
Should Porteous make it through the one-round qualifier he’ll start fresh on Thursday and look to overcome the task of making the cut. He has a good cushion in earnings and that will help him to relax and tackle this final hurdle of the 2014 season as he looks to become Rookie of the Year.