Walters begins lengthy quest in India

Justin Walters has exemption on the Sunshine Tour until the end of 2013 thanks to his 2011 victory in the Investec Royal Swazi Open, but that’s not stopping him seeking status elsewhere.

Walters and compatriot Tyrone Ferreira tee it up this week in the European Challenge Tour’s season opener, the Gujarat Kensville Challenge at Kensville Golf and Country Club in Ahmedabad in India.

And while the similarities between the 23-year-old Branden Grace and the 32-year-old Walters are almost non-existent, Walters will take heart from the rise and rise of South Africa’s latest golf superstar as he sets out trying to gain his European Tour card the hard way.

Actually, it has been hard enough for Walters already: He made his way through the labyrinthine first and second stages of the European Tour’s Qualifying School before heading off to the Final Stage at PGA Catalunya in Girona, Spain last December.

There, his fourth-round 66 in the six-round marathon was not enough to see him gain possession of the prized card as he finished in 58th place.

So, as Grace did last year, he’s going to have to pursue the Challenge Tour route to find his way on to the big stage of the European Tour – and like Grace before him, he might have to deal with the disappointment of just missing out on getting on to the main tour by the direct route.

Last year, Grace slipped out of the top 20 on the Challenge Tour money list in the season finale in the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, and had to battle his way through the Final Stage Qualifying School just as Walters did. He was successful, finishing 11th, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And that story will be one of the prime motivators for Walters, as well as for Ferreira, who, like Walters, has two wins on the Sunshine Tour to his credit. Ferreira last won back in 2010, when he took the SAA Pro-Am Invitational at Randpark, and his exemption on the Sunshine Tour expires this year.

So in the heat of India on Thursday, two Sunshine Tour professionals begin a journey they hope will lift them into the kind of stratosphere occupied by Grace right now.

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