It’s been a memorable season for rookies on the 2014 Sunshine Tour, with the notable performance coming from Haydn Porteous, who amassed more than R700,000 after gaining his card through Qualifying School 12 months ago.
Yet in the shadows of Porteous’ brilliance, fellow Q-School graduate and rookie Rhys West put together a solid campaign that has culminated in a highly impressive display at the South African Open this week.
The Glendower local, who earned his right to play in his national Open at the Kempton Park Pre-qualifying, fired rounds of 75, 71 and 71 to find himself in a share of 49th place going into the final round. He didn’t disappoint on Sunday either, making five birdies en route to a potentially lucrative 69.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s gone today,” the 26-year old smiled. “I feel like I left a few birdies out there, but all in all I played really solidly today.”
The Rookie of the Year award has gone to some fine players in the past, with Order of Merit leader Danie van Tonder a recent winner. West and his colleagues were simply blown away by the excellent Porteous there, and he had warm words for his colleague.
“He’s a really good player, and he deserves it,” West noted. “He’s got a great future ahead of him, there’s no doubt about that. He got his card the same way I did, and we’ve both had the same opportunities, so I give him credit for everything he’s achieved this year.”
West really announced himself to the Tour when he finished second at the Vodacom Origins Arabella. Yet finishing inside the top 30 at a co-sanctioned event means he almost doubles his career earnings in the space of just four days, and the former SA Boys champion believes his efforts this week eclipse the result at Arabella given the prestige of the event.
“I would say this and the Dunhill (where he finished 67th) would be the highlight of the year,” he admitted. “But obviously this being our national Open makes it that extra bit special. Finishing second is always nice, but this is a different kind of pressure with all these people watching, and I’m really happy that I could play decently in these circumstances.”
His reward for a fine week, and a fine season, is a category-seven card for the 2015 season, and in the absence of having to go through the weekly rigours of pre-qualifying, West believes he can kick on from here with his career.
“It’s obviously great from a confidence perspective to look back on what I’ve done, especially in the latter part of the season,” he explained. “But one of the biggest advantages for me now is that I don’t have to pre-q for every event. Pre-qualifying the whole year wasn’t a lot of fun, but at the same time, you also learn a lot, and you’ve just got to take that experience with you.”