The 23-year-old Johannesburg professional is currently the leader on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with around R3.4-million in earnings this season alone. This year Van Tonder has won twice on the Sunshine Tour, had a further eight top-10 finishes, and missed only one cut.
He’s having the kind of season that, whether it materialises or not, has put him in the realm of now dreaming about a place in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the end of this year. And now this week he’s teeing it up alongside Ryder Cup stars, Major champions and a host of celebrities and sports legends in St Andrews.
“I’m loving it,” he said of his debut in St Andrews this week. He also played his first round on the famed Old Course. “The course is completely different to what I’m used to. You’ve got to be imaginative around here. You have to think about your tee shots and place them. You can’t just bomb it off the tee. And you can putt it from anywhere.”
Van Tonder feels an obvious sense of achievement having reached a new level in his career this week.
“When you play in a field like this, it feels like you belong. There have been some players who keep an eye on the Sunshine Tour and have remarked about my progress. Sure, this is the highest quality field I’ve ever played in. But I don’t think of it that way. It doesn’t intimidate me. You’ve got to be confident in your game. So I’m here to win.”