15th April 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Justin Harding – worth celebrating
The simple takeaway: Justin Harding has fought for and deserves his place amongst golf’s elite.
He rose to 44th in the world on the Official World Golf Ranking after his share of 12th in the Masters last week, and even if that was overshadowed by the enormity of Tiger Woods’ astonishing victory at Augusta National, Harding’s ranking anchors in reality the feel-good stuff that has been floating about out there.
A lot of the conversation on social media during Harding’s week at the Masters seemed to celebrate, certainly, but at the same time be almost disbelieving about the level of his performance, and sometimes reflexively defensive of both his performance and of the man.
If anything, his frailties and the way he handled them – he didn’t card a single round over-par through the tournament – spoke to a degree of comfort at a level at which many seemed to think he might find himself out of his depth.
On the contrary, the way he produced some stellar play at critical moments to keep himself in the mix – if not in contention – spoke volumes of his golf pedigree and how it has been developed on one of the under-recognised professional tours of the world. By way of example, his birdie putt on the final hole got him into his share of 12th, and ensured that he would be back at Augusta National next year, no matter what.
Through it all – the whole roller-coaster of emotions the experience must have produced for him – he unfailingly displayed his trademark self-deprecation in a way which endeared him to all who were encountering him for the first time.
That down-to-earth nature has ensured that his example is one which maps out the way for Sunshine Tour professionals of all ages. He has become one of South Africa’s top golfers – in the company of the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace – and he has done so from a position that many would have thought left him diminishing options for the rest of his career.
His presence at local Sunshine Tour events will be limited in future, and, in one way, that’s sad. He plays in Canada this week, although quite how he lifts himself after the week he’s just had is beyond comprehension.
In another way, it’s worth celebrating. And he surely knows just how much he is celebrated on the Sunshine Tour right now.