In a risk-averse sports world – and no sport is more so than golf – Danie van Tonder goes into the final round of the R800,000 BMG Classic with a mind uncluttered by fear of failure.
“If I play well, I’m going to be hard to beat,” he says, “and I’m not playing badly.” That’s his simple ‘come-and-get-me’ approach to the game.
The 23-year-old who plays out of Ebotse Links in Benoni on the East Rand took the 2012 Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year title, and seemed to be on the verge of delivering on his promise for a an inordinately long time: He had six top-10s in 2012, and a share of second twice, and five top-10s in 2013, and shared second twice again.
But the first victory came in May this year after he had come close again in the lucrative Tshwane Open in February, finishing second to Ross Fisher. He took the Investec Royal Swazi Open in May and the opening Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Euphoria the following month.
Those are the highlights of a year that, by any measure, is a successful one: The two victories and nine other top-10s see him riding high on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and in a pretty good position to press for a win.
That is precisely what he will do – and he will make no bones about telling anyone who cares to listen that pressing for victory is the only way to play sport.
Around the Glendower Golf Club for the BMG Classic, the talk amongst the professionals is couched in terms of respect for the testing nature of the classic parklands layout – caution is the watchword.
Not Van Tonder. “I’m playing aggressively, but I’m not doing silly things,” he said. “I’m making sure I’m hitting fairways and giving myself second shots to the green – at least that way, you can make birdies.”
His very nature is to revel in the rush of having a go, because that is often the only way to break clear of pursuers, or to close the gap on a leader. And, with a three-stroke deficit between him and leader Darren Fichardt ahead of the final round of the BMG Classic, he’ll have a go.
“I’m not scared of anyone,” he says.