Picking who to watch at a European Tour golf event like the current Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club isn’t easy as all the players are not right there in front of you as they are in team sports.
In addition, Randpark’s Anthony Michael hasn’t established himself on tour to the same extent as, say, a Charl Schwartzel or a George Coetzee. So it was no surprise to see a complete dearth of spectators watching this 30-year-old from Randpark shooting the lights out on Thursday, besides the three caddies (Michael’s bagman, Francois van Rensburg, is also from Randpark) and the official scorer from Nomads.
On Thursday there were three fans when Michael teed off alongside fellow South African Bryandrew Roelofsz and England’s Ross McGowan. Mellette Hendrikse, the busy director of golf at Randpark, had decided that Michael needed some support. So he changed from his usual work clothes into shorts, running shoes and a floppy hat and pulled Cobus Oosthuizen out from from behind the counter at the Randpark Pro Shop. With Hendrikse’s girlfriend in tow, the trio set off for Pretoria Country Club.
“You know, Anthony needed some encouragement and even though he didn’t play as well today as he did yesterday, he held it together nicely. This is just reward for all the hard work he’s been putting in back at the club, and he’s swinging it just great,” Hendrikse said.
A product of Randpark, Michael was introduced to the game at just three years old by his father and grandfather but played all the sports, and as a youngster achieved provincial colours for soccer and national colours for baseball.
“I played baseball for South Africa at age-group level for two years, and even went to Japan. I dreamed about being a big star and playing for the New York Yankees. But the sport kind of died in South Africa so I decided golf’s the way to go.”
So, after representing Central Gauteng at Under-16 and under-18 level, he landed a scholarship to Oklahoma City University in 2005, graduating with a degree in Business Administration. Golf-wise, he made great strides and won five collegiate events during his four years in America.
Michael’s career as a professional started with him having a hot-shot first year on tour in 2010, finishing 10th in the final Order of Merit. Since then he hasn’t been able to replicate that kind of form although there were encouraging signs at the South African Open at Glendower in January when he tied for 27th. Now at Pretoria Country Club, he’s looked the real deal.
Unfortunately his good friend and fellow professional at Randpark, Ryan Tipping, missed the Tshwane Open cut.
But such is the camaraderie between golfers that Tipping gave Michael a big hug after he established his competitive halfway total of seven-under-par 133 at Pretoria Country and said: “Well done bud, please let’s have your autograph!”
Anthony Michael may not be a household name yet. But he’s one of South Africa’s talented golf professionals. And at least three people know he’s well worth watching.