It seems a pity when one’s first trip to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is for work, but Rourke van der Spuy will be happy that his job will have him playing the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open next month.
Van der Spuy, a rookie on the Sunshine Tour, topped the leaderboard on Tuesday at Huddle Park Golf Club in the local tour’s qualifying round for 10 places in the tournament that is sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, The European Tour and the Asian Tour, and will be played at the Heritage Golf Club for the €1-million (approximately US$1.1-million) prize fund.
“It will be my first trip to Mauritius,” said Van der Spuy. “I’d normally be anticipating a nice holiday, but I’m actually just as excited to be playing in the tournament.”
He carded a seven-under-par 63, one stroke ahead of Stuart Smith of Botswana, with Roberto Lupini and Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya a further shot back on five-under-par.
For Van der Spuy, it was a step up from his share of 33rd in last week’s Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open, and that performance was his first cut made of his rookie year after he finished in a share of third in January’s Sunshine Tour Qualifying School to earn his playing privileges.
He was born in South Africa in 1990 before his family moved to live in London, when he was just two. He moved back to South Africa at the age of six where he attended Durban High School before being awarded a golf scholarship at Troy University in Alabama. After two years at Troy, he transferred to Columbus State University under head coach Mark Immelman, where he was awarded All-American honours in my his first year.
He spent the last six months of 2013 campaigning on mini-tours in the United States after graduating. He tried to qualify for the Web.Com Tour. He made some inroads by winning the First Stage and getting past the Second Stage of the Three Stage Qualifying School.
“I was knocked out at the Final Stage, so I came home and tried for a card at the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School,” he said. “I had two rubbish rounds and was cut, so I asked around and the guys told me to play the IGT Pro Tour.”
He had a good run of it on that tour before gaining his Sunshine Tour card in Bloemfontein.
“This rookie year is like climbing a ladder,” he said. “You have to reach each step in its turn. I got my card, I have made my first cut now, and now I’ve got into a big tournament through a tough qualifier.”
He produced some pretty special golf to qualify for Mauritius after his two-over-par showing in Harare left him well off the pace set by winner Dean Burmester. “Everything went well today,” he said after he topped the qualifying list. “My ball striking was good, and my putting was good, especially as the greens were furry and slow, which made things difficult after what we experienced in Harare.”
He has a slightly different dilemma than most other first-time visitors to Mauritius. “My Dad is going to have to check on his work commitments to see whether he can come over and caddie for me,” he said.
“If he gets there, it means I’ll be travelling with my sponsor,” he laughed.