Although he came third on the 2003-2004 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, Desvonde Botes has already won more money on this year’s money list than he has in any year of a 22-year-long professional career.
The 38-year-old lies ninth on the 2013 Order of Merit after his second-place finish in this week’s Wild Waves Golf Challenge at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club, a course where he finished second in the Nashua Masters in 2004 behind Andrew McLardy, and that win boosted his prize-money this year to just short of R953,000.
That’s over R100,000 more than 2012, his most lucrative year on the tour, and after just 16 tournaments compared to the 25 he played last year. And with eight top-10 finishes in 2013, it’s looking like a very good year for Botes.
But you get the sense that he’d swop an awful lot of that success for another victory to add to his collection of 13 Sunshine Tour titles, the last of which came in the 2006 Seekers Travel Pro-Am. “I’m really itching for a win again,” he said ahead of the final round at the Wild Coast. “We’re out here to win, and it’s almost seven years since my last win, so it would be great to have one.”
And he’d be forgiven for thinking the golfing gods conspired to keep him winless a little longer still after he carded three consecutive rounds of five-under-par 65 in the Wild Waves Challenge, only to see Andrew Curlewis beat him by one stroke.
“I’ve been playing quite nice golf for the last year-and-a-half, two years,” he said with the kind of understatement that characterises his own stringent evaluation of his game.
He started his professional career with the golfing world at his feet: He won the South African Amateur Championship in 1991 at the age of 16 years and 5 months, 20 days younger than the record set by Ernie Els. His first professional victory came in the Mercedes Benz Golf Challenge in 1993.
Following further successes in South Africa, including winning the South African Masters in 1998, Botes attempted to qualify for the European Tour. He did not manage to gain full exemption in 1999, but returned the following year to win the European Tour Qualifying School less than a week after claiming his second Platinum Classic title. He finished just outside the top 100 in the Order of Merit, with a best finish of fifth in the Benson & Hedges International Open.
He was unable to retain his place on the European Tour because of back problems in 2002 and 2003 so he returned to South Africa and won the Parmalat Classic in June 2003 on his way to third place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
That promising form prompted another attempt at the European Tour Qualifying School. He claimed the last card for the 2004 season, but made only five cuts in the regular tour events, with a best finish of ninth, and failed to retain his playing privileges for the following season.
He’s won three times since that 2003 victory, but he has been runner-up 12 heart-breaking times. “Maybe it’s time to win again,” he says.