He hopes his daughters have seen him play – or will watch him over the weekend – but Wallie Coetsee, who led the Joburg Open at 12-under par at the halfway mark on Friday, doesn’t even have a television set.
Coetsee carded a second-successive six-under-par score in the second round, signing for a 65 on Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s West Course to go with his fine six-under 66 on the East Course in the opening round.
With all the players having completed two rounds – one on each of the courses – he had a one stroke edge over England’s Simon Dyson and South Africans Tjaart van der Walt and Garth Mulroy, who lost in a play-off to Richard Sterne in the 2008 edition of the tournament.
“When we moved to Jefferys Bay two-and-a-half years ago, we decided to get rid of our television,” said Coetsee, “so if Zoe and Kelly want to watch, I hope my wife Ashley takes them to a friend’s place.”
He bolted out of the stalls in the morning with three consecutive birdies, and followed them up with a fourth on the sixth. But he dropped only his second shot of the tournament so far on the seventh. “That was actually a good thing for me, because it made me just slow down and concentrate,” he said. “I think you can get carried away when things are going too easily.”
After that bogey, he reeled off seven consecutive pars before making eagle on 15 and birdie on 17 to finish with a little flourish. “There were a few sucker pins out there, so I went for middle green. I didn’t attack too much and just stayed calm, which paid off,” he said.
That calm maturity is a product of 23 years as a professional, and many of those given up to a grind to stay eligible to continue playing. He won his first title in 1997, and then had to wait 17 years for his second, which came in last year’s Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open.
The maturity is also a product of the change in lifestyle the move to surfing paradise brought – although he doesn’t ride any waves: “Life is so much simpler, especially without television. We’re in bed early, and we read a lot of books,” he said. “And we’re up early, walking on the beach before we take the kids to school.
“I can also practice early, and I play out at Zwartenbosch Golf and Lifestyle Estate. It’s quiet there. I have the nine-hole course to myself on Mondays and Tuesdays, there are ccompetitions on Wednesdays, and I have it to myself again on Thursdays. It’s like I’ve got my own course,” he beamed.
And that kind of fantasy is almost how he feels to be leading one of South Africa’s richest tournaments. “Somebody must wake me up, it feels like a dream,” he said.
And with three places in The Open at St Andrews in July up for grabs for those not otherwise exempt, the dream could only get better. “It would be great, but that is a big bonus. First thing is to wake up tomorrow and enjoy this ride.”
Part of the enjoyment of the ride is about leading, but he’s under no illusions about the magnitude of the task that lies ahead if he wants to win. “For now it’s about making solid pars and keeping the battery at 100 percent,” he said. “Keep it going and you’ll be ready when you need to be.
“This is a marathon, not a race. You have to pull the horse back a bit, you can’t run to fast. We’ll let the horse loose on Sunday on the back nine.”