By Michael Vlismas
With the golf year’s Majors at the halfway point, the field for the 2014 Nedbank Golf Challenge is starting to take shape. And there’s one South African who is still hoping he can muscle his way into one of the most exclusive tournaments in world golf.
Danie van Tonder will take a two-stroke lead into Friday’s final round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung at the Euphoria Golf Estate.
Should he win on Friday, the R95 100 cheque for first place will lift him from his current position of fourth on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit to second behind England’s Ross Fisher.
But the reality is, he’ll actually be in first place because Fisher has only played two tournaments on the Sunshine Tour this season. A minimum of seven tournaments is required to qualify for the local Order of Merit.
And with the top-ranked player on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit as of Monday 24 November earning a place in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge field, Van Tonder is well aware that this week could be a career-changing one for him.
“Playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge would open a lot of doors for me,” Van Tonder said after his 67 on Thursday to lead on 10 under par.
“You play in that tournament and all of a sudden your name is known worldwide. I’d love to test myself against such a world-class field.”
Van Tonder has one of the most unorthodox swings in world golf, and the sounds to match. The power with which he hits the ball results in what he can only describe as a “snorting sound” that comes out of his mouth.
“I think it would be great to stand alongside those players on the range, with my strange swing and the kind of unorthodox sound I make when I swing. I think it will be fun. So yes, my goal is to win this week, and then do well in all the tournaments leading up to the Nedbank Golf Challenge so I can stay top of the Order of Merit.”
And it’s not like he’s just dreaming big, because Van Tonder’s form this season makes it a distinct possibility that he can make it into the Sun City showpiece.
He’s currently sitting with a little over R3.2 million in earnings. He’s had seven top-10s in 11 tournaments this season, including a win in the Investec Royal Swazi Open and solid performances in the tournaments co-sanctioned with the European Tour, such as his second place in the Tshwane Open and ninth place in the Joburg Open. And he hasn’t missed a cut this season.
And if Van Tonder does make it into the Nedbank Golf Challenge, he’ll be able to tick off two firsts. It will also be the first time he’s played the iconic Gary Player Country Club.