Wallie Coetsee: Second means something

2015 Joburg Open: Day 4While the winners of the first five tournaments of the 2015 Sunshine Tour season are justifiably feted for their feats, four men who came second in those tournaments have set themselves up for a good year.

And if any one player represents a golden memory of the five tournaments which kick-started the year, it will be Wallie Coetsee, the man who came second in the Joburg Open for his biggest payday of a 23-year-long professional career.

While he started off the year without any significant signal that he was going to be such a major figure in the tournaments ahead with a share of 24th in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, his opening rounds of 66 and 65 at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington saw him flare into a prominence that not even his second career-victory in last May’s Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open – after a 17-year gap between that win and his first – had brought him.

The genial 42-year-old from Jeffrey’s Bay by way of Tzaneen has a personal story to tell which captivated media and fans alike, and his valiant attempt to win the Joburg Open became a point of focus for both television and live audiences.

His attempt during those final two rounds made for riveting viewing, even if it was utilitarian rather than explosive: He carded 70 and 71 over the weekend, but it was the way he constantly bounced back from setbacks which was compelling. He made three bogeys in the third round and two in the final round.

In the end, it was the heart he showed when making an important birdie on 18 to get himself into a five-way share of second which will be the most important thing – besides the million-rand pay-out which changed the game for him – which he will take from his performance.

He was never far from the headlines thereafter, dragging himself into a semblance of respectability in the Africa Open with his second-round 68, being very much in contention in the Tshwane Open until a final-round six-over 76 saw him slip to a share of 30th, and showing a lot of what Australians call ‘ticker’ with his yeoman like share of 18th in the Investec Cup.

That he has managed to attract the eye of Investec as that company’s newest sponsored golfer speaks volumes of what he seems able to achieve as an ambassador – for the game as well as for sponsors.

With an Asian Tour card to his credit, he will probably wait until June or July to play on that circuit, preferring to defend his title in Zambia on April 23 rather than playing the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters the same week.

And that will give him time to bed down the changes that are inevitable now that he has shown he can swim with the big fish. But it will be the attempt to get out of second place which will be getting most of his attention.

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