Last year Ruan de Smidt won the Sunshine Tour qualifying school and had a dream rookie season that included a win at the Suncoast Classic. This year he continued to shine as one of the next stars to come out of the South African production line.
On Thursday, 200 metres from the border of Kruger National Park, De Smidt wrapped up a round of 69 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship to share eighth. He has set up for another great tournament with his opening round, but this week he’s got more than the local threat to deal with. A host of European Tour contenders including Ricardo Santos, David Drysdale, Danny Willett, Edoardo Molinari, Alejandro Canizares, and Robert Rock are in the hunt.
The 24-year-old from Krugersdorp had crests and troughs throughout the first round, but birdies at three of his final six holes were the mark of a youngster ready to make an international name for himself.
This year on the Sunshine Tour has been good to De Smidt – he’s picked up six top-10s, including sole second at the Investec Royal Swazi Open in May. More than that he’s become accustomed to contending for titles, to playing in final groups, and to the spotlight.
While Leopard Creek makes for an imposing stage, De Smidt has been through plenty of trials in his two years on tour and come out on top. There are still 54 holes to play at South Africa’s number one ranked golf course, but this young hopeful is likely, as always, to take the next step in his stride. Look out for his name on the leaderboard.