On the row of giant photographs honouring the victors in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, Pablo Martin Benavides’ grin stands out on the face of the first two-time winner of the tournament.
It’s a grin on the face of a boy becoming a man, a boy enjoying life as he took the 2009 and 2010 titles after winning his first title on the European Tour – which co-sanctions the Alfred Dunhill Championship with the Sunshine Tour – as an amateur in 2007 when he captured the Estoril Open de Portugal title.
But it has been slim pickings for the 27-year-old from Malaga in Spain since then, and after a poor 2012 season, he lost full playing rights on the European Tour and did not compete in the qualifying school.
He’s into the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the strength of his victories.
“When I lost my card, I wanted to take some time off,” he said, “and my wife and I had a child. So I decided to take 2013 off, not play any golf and just enjoy that time with my family. I didn’t want to miss that special moment of the baby being born and being with my wife when she needs it the most.
“After all, I’m going to play golf for many, many years, and it’s not as if I’m going to have that many kids,” he laughed.
“So it was a good thing to sit back and think and try and plan how I could become a better player. And the results of that thinking are just starting now,” he said after his opening round of two-under-par 70 on a course he loves so much.
“It’s tough to see where you’re at and where you need to improve, and what you need to work on when you’re playing in tournaments all the time,” he said. “It seems like you don’t get anything done. So I wanted to stop that and look at things from outside a golf course.
“Now I’m just getting started with that. I’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m just going to try little by little to become a better player.
“I’m proud that I took the decision to step away from the course. It was not an easy decision. The easy thing is always to keep on going and try to play a different tournament every week somewhere and somehow, but I just felt I wasn’t doing the right thing. I wasn’t pleased with the way I was managing my career. I needed some fresh air, to break away from everything and try to build it up again.
“I don’t expect anything yet, because it’s a slow process and I just want to try to improve,” he added.
Two-under-par is perhaps the first sign of that improvement – but perhaps not as marked a sign as the maturity that shines through that grin which is not boyish any more.
It’s a man’s grin.