By Lali Stander
He got given the nickname ‘Rambo’ when he was two, but that wasn’t what caused the flurry of Google activity in the media centre at the BWM SA Open proudly hosted by Ekurhuleni after Christiaan Bezuidenhout sneaked into the top 10 at Glendower Golf Club on Friday.
The Sunshine Tour rookie mixed five birdies with two bogeys to finish within three shots of Keith Horne, who produced a flawless 69 to set the clubhouse target at eight under.
“I was a very active little boy,” he recalled, “and I was always jumping on top of things, and off them, and that was when someone started calling me Rambo.”
Physically, he’s nothing like the well-muscled character played by Sylvester Stallone, but his tall, lean build makes him the ideal shape for a golfer.
Rambo was six under after a birdie at the fifth, but while most players would have fumed after dropping a shot at a short par five right before the end of their round, he just took the bogey at the eighth in his stride and closed out his round with a solid par at the ninth.
“At the eighth I pushed my approach right of the bunker into the thick stuff,” he said.
“The pin was tucked close to the bunker, so the result would be bad either way. I chipped it right to give myself room to go for the pin, but I caught the fringe. The first putt just kept going and going. I had a great read on the second putt, but it stopped half-a-roll short of the hole.
“You need to walk off that kind of bogey before you get to the next tee box and regroup quickly, or you could end up with another bogey, especially on a course like Glendower.”
It is this strong mental approach that made Rambo a force to be reckoned with as an amateur and kept him at the top of the rankings for nearly two years. And it is this positive mind-set that has seen him win five times since he joined the pro ranks in March last year.
It is an approach that got a serious tune-up at Qualifying School in December and an attitude he will carry into the weekend
After claiming three wins in non-Sunshine Tour events, two Big Easy Tour victories and the Big Easy Tour Order of Merit title in eight months, Rambo was the outright favourite at Qualifying School in December but he found himself on the wrong side of the top 30 in Bloemfontein after rounds of 71 and 71.
“I was well down on the leaderboard,” he said. “I was hitting the ball all over the show and just felt out of sorts, so I called my cousin and he set me right. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know or that my coach Doug Wood hasn’t told me before, but coming from him it just stuck in my head.”
The cousin in question was former professional tennis player Michael de Jongh, who coached the likes of Martina Navratilova, Mary Pierce and Amanda Coetzer.
The advice was to focus on the process.
“Stand behind the ball, see the shot and commit to it. I shot 65 the next day to jump to second and won the Q-School two days later. It is three very simple things, really, but sometimes we just need a new person to remind us what to do.
“Now I remind myself at the start of every hole to stick to the process. I’m not thinking about Sunday at all; I’m only thinking about the tee shot on Saturday morning.”