From Challenge Tour
An 11-man contingent of South Africans travels to Nairobi this week keen to follow in the footsteps of Haydn Porteous in the Barclays Kenya Open which kicks off the European Challenge Tour season at Karen Country Club on Thursday.
The 11 are Jacques Blaauw, Christiaan Basson, Erik van Rooyen, Rhys West, Callum Mowat, Dylan Frittelli, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Danie van Tonder, Michael Palmer, Merrick Bremner and Oliver Bekker.
At last year’s curtain-raiser to the Challenge Tour season, Porteous memorably triumphed over close friend Brandon Stone in a play-off, eagling the first additional hole to clinch a maiden professional victory.
The South African pair have since gone on to take the European Tour by storm, Stone winning the BMW South African Open before one week later Porteous claimed the Joburg Open.
That victory secured Porteous his European Tour playing rights through to the end of the 2017 season, but he retains fond memories of his breakthrough win on the Challenge Tour last April.
“Kenya was my first pro win so it’s always going to be very close to my heart,” said the 21 year old. “It’s a great country with really friendly people, and it’s a great week – I wish I was going there this year.”
Winning in Kenya put Porteous in the top 15 of the Road to Oman Rankings, where he remained until the final event of the season, the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final.
A disappointing week in Oman saw him overtaken in the Rankings at the 11th hour, just missing out on one of the 15 European Tour cards, while a visit to the Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School a week later was similarly unsuccessful.
Such is golf, and, with the Joburg Open victory looking like a watershed moment in this young man’s career, Porteous is ready to acknowledge the lessons he learned from some of 2015’s setbacks.
“In terms of confidence I thought Kenya was a bit of a shot in the dark,” he said. “I hadn’t been playing very well and it sort of came out of nowhere.
“For much of the season after that I played really nicely to keep myself within the top 15 in the Road to Oman Rankings on the Challenge Tour but I got, I would say, a little bit unlucky towards the end of the season.
“Unfortunately I didn’t play very well and missed out in Oman, missed out in the Final Stage of Q-School, but then I won the Joburg Open and now I’m just riding that wave.
“After winning Kenya I started to battle nerves with the putter and I learned to get through that.
“I think a lot of golfers take the psychology part of the game quite lightly, but I worked quite hard in terms of trying to be confident around the golf course and thinking about the right things. The Joburg Open was almost a reward for all the hard work I’d been putting into the psychology part of it.”