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Good, but how good?


You'll have to indulge me here, but the players I find the most fascinating to observe in professional golf are the journeymen.

The guys who, almost by nature, avoid attention and limelight. Ironically, those who also invoke the least fascination of all to the masses.

I'm talking about the players who miss cuts once in a blue moon, but who find themselves in contention for victory equally scarcely. Every professional Tour in the world has them.

But in a sport like golf where variables such as form, timing, focus and even luck can be so temperamental, how is it that these men know almost before the tournament starts that they will likely finish roughly in a tie for 25th? Such metronomical consistency seems to defy golfing logic.

One man on the Sunshine Tour who fits this profile to a tee is Andrew Curlewis. Until last week, he had amassed more than R2 million in career prize money, a total of 25 top-10 finishes and a place in the Order of Merit's top 50 for six straight years. He also enjoyed a spell of 15 consecutive cuts made at one point.

Yet in his time making cut after cut since turning professional in 2004, he had managed just one Sunshine Tour victory - the 2007 Vodacom Origins of Golf Arabella. And only on three other occasions was he able to record a finish inside the top three.

It really is a set of numbers that defines a journeyman, and "Curly," as he is affectionately known on Tour, would likely have had few complaints about being described as such. After all, it's hardly an insult. It's a level of consistency 99.9% of professional golfers can only dream of.

But last week there were signs of change as he cruised to a second-place finish at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Langebaan. And his fine effort in the Cape was the pre-cursor to ending a victory drought in excess of six years, as on Thursday he held off the challenge of Desvonde Botes and Titch Moore to clinch a one-stroke win in the Wild Waves Challenge at Wild Coast Sun.

When asked about his week, the 30-year old simply stated "It was some of the best golf I've played in years!"

It seems remarkable. What suddenly changes? He now has a well-established reputation for habitually hitting every fairway, his iron play is as good as anyone else's on Tour, and his short game is solid.

There isn't an overt weakness to his game, other than perhaps length off the tee. It thus might have appeared to many over the last few years that he'd simply found his niche, and perhaps even reached the limit of his ability.

But on Thursday that all changed, as consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, followed by two steely pars, closed out a final-round 65 which secured a win that had, for some time, seemed out of reach.

"It was tough to keep the belief over the last few years," the Margate professional admitted. "There have been lots of downs, and some ups. But my Mom and Dad, my girlfriend Tammy, other friends - they've kept me going.

"I just feel relief. It's been a long few years, so to give myself a chance and then hold the others off coming down the last three holes feels very special," he added.

Special it may be, but it was also a demonstration of what Curlewis is capable of. He showed his peers that he can go deep when needed, and that he certainly knows how to win.

But what does it all mean? Is this a breakthrough; a dawn of a new era for Curlewis? Will he be a regular visitor to the winner's circle in the future? Or will it prove to be a statistical anomaly as he deviates back to the norm?

Only time will tell, but I have a feeling it's a sign of things to come for the steady-swinging Curly.

Either way, he's made a significant impact in the last seven days, and next time he pegs it up, his colleagues will know that he is not just there to pick up a useful pay cheque - he's there to contend.


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