He turned 40 in December last year, and Vaughn Groenewald has turned his golfing life on its head with two wins on the Sunshine Tour this year, doubling his career victory haul in his 21st year as a professional.
And he put himself in the mix yet again with a second-round five-under-par 67 on Thursday oin the R650,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf Final presented by Samsung at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa.
“I’ve been playing well now for a while,” he said. “I could have won four times this year, but twice is pretty cool. I’d like to get another one before the end of the year.”
He took 11 years to win his first professional title – the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Pretoria Country Club in 2006, and he won five months later again in October that year in the Platinum Classic. It took eight-and-a-half years to get number three on his list, when he won the Zambia Sugar Open in Lusaka in May this year and he added the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge to his CV in August.
He’s got no real explanation for this late surge in his career: “I had a good amateur career, so I think I have underachieved as a professional,” he said. “But I’m a late bloomer, so the older I get, maybe the better I get. I just try to keep fit, keep on playing and I’m looking forward to all the big tournaments coming up on the Sunshine Tour – I’m just glad I’m playing well at the right time.”
He’s changed one really important aspect of his life, and that may explain some of his current success. He moved his family from Ermelo in Mpumalanga to George in the Western Cape, and he acknowledges the difference this has made. “My life has actually changed completely. It’s gone from being not so great to being unbelievable,” he said. Staying in George is amazing. I can’t wait to get home because it’s like paradise there. People are so friendly. My wife loves it, the kids love it.
“It’s a different lifestyle from what I had in Ermelo – I’ve got no burglar bars, no high fencing in front of the house, whereas at my old house, it took us half-an-hour just to get inside. I don’t need to worry. When I went away when we stayed in Ermelo, I used to worry about my wife every time, and now she’s loving it – the security she has. We’re all just loving it.”
He’s determined to make his good form count. He’s never ventured beyond the Sunshine Tour to try his hand at making some money on tours elsewhere in the world, but that’s going to change. “I’ve decided this year I’m going become a member of The European Tour at the Alfred Dunhill Championship,” he said. “If I had tried to go the qualifying school route, I would have had to go to Qualifying School First Stage – only about 15 percent of players can make it all the way through all three stages.
“So I think I’ve got about eight tournaments to try, and get my European Tour card, and I need just one good one, and the job can be done. I’ve never tried, so I’m going to take a chance!”