'Focused' Olly ready for next step
Without question one of the Sunshine Tour’s steadiest performers is Oliver Bekker, and perhaps the only surprise is that the man from Stellenbosch hasn’t recorded more victories. A win at the 2011 Northern Cape Classic is his only triumph as a professional to date, but he will no doubt be channelling all his talent to put that right.
And, having celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday, Bekker laid the foundations for a potentially special week as he fired an impressive 67 on day one of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek to find himself just one stroke off the overnight-lead of Gregory Bourdy.
“A 67 is always a good start. This is such a fun tournament to play, and it’s always an enjoyable week, but it’s better when you’re playing well. I played nicely and hit a lot of good shots,” Bekker said. “The bogey I had was a three-putt, so it was a little silly but other than that I gave myself a lot of opportunities out there and managed to capitalize on them.”
Of course, there remains a long way to go in the event, and to throw around the thought of victory would be premature. But, when looking at Bekker’s track record on the Sunshine Tour, one feels that the next step isn’t far away for a man who received All American honours in his college golf days, and a great finish in a major co-sanctioned event might be just the catalyst.
Since turning pro and joining the Sunshine Tour in 2008, Bekker has easily established himself as one of the major forces in local circles. He finished 48th on the Order of Merit in his first full season, and his improvement has been consistent ever since.
Going into the final event of the 2012 Sunshine Tour season, he finds himself in 12th place in the tightly packed standings. The €1.5 million co-sanctioned event is the Tour’s richest, and the enormity of the occasion is not lost on Bekker given all the exemptions that are on the line.
“I was eying a top-five spot on our Order of Merit to make it into a couple of World Golf Championship events next year. For that I have to play well this week.
“This week the prize money is increased by a half, so there’s a lot to play for. This is the biggest purse of our year. A good week and you can jump high up on the Order of Merit. I think I’m 12th, so I’ll try to jump into the top five,” he said.
The big stage isn’t completely foreign to Bekker though, as an appearance at this year’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational marked a breakthrough of sorts in his career. A cheque for just under €33,000 there represented a job well done, but someone with 19 top-10 finishes to his name is understandably looking to become a permanent fixture on the European Tour.
“A couple of good finishes now and then next year I’ll try to get myself into the top 110 on the European Tour as well.
“It definitely helped playing a big tournament like that (WGC). You settle down - I wasn’t nervous at all today. I was very calm and focused on the game, not worrying about what’s going on around you. You have to put the flaps on when you’re playing golf like that, because there are so many people walking around and a lot of media. If you get yourself too hooked up in that then you can’t focus on what you’re really there to do,” Bekker said.
Calm and focus will be the key this week if Bekker is to claim a massive victory, or stumble into the top-five at the very least. After five impressive years on the Sunshine Tour, this amiable man finds himself on the cusp of something massive. But big talents should dream big, and it can now only be a matter of time before he arrives.