Hollick revels in his glimpse of the big stage
The Durban crowds have been treated to seeing some of the biggest names in golf at this week’s Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club.
The presence of legends such as Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington have seen people stream through the gates.
But one of the lesser-heralded golfers to have entertained the locals this week is Durban professional Michael Hollick.
The late withdrawal of Peter Hanson from the original field of 34 left a last-minute gap, and Sunshine Tour player Hollick, who finished 20th at last year’s South African Open, jumped at the chance to play as a marker in the star-studded event.
“I’ve been a member here for years. I was the club champion here two years ago before I turned pro. I think they knew they were going to be a player short, so they contacted me and asked if I would like to play as a marker. And of course, I was like, ‘without a doubt! What a great experience.’ So I took them up on the offer, and here I am,” the 25 year-old said with a smile.
“It’s such a great experience playing with the big guys. I mean, I had a practice round with Paul Casey and Branden Grace, so it can only improve my game. And with the season starting for us at the Telkom – I think this was the best practice I could possibly get for the tournament.”
And Hollick was anything but out of his depth. Despite some adverse conditions and the pressures of playing with the world’s best, the former KZN amateur champion posted a four-round total better than the likes of Olazabal, Jbe Kruger and Sunday playing-partner Darren Fichardt.
“The first tee shot was very nerve-wracking. They’ve got the guy who announces for the British Open. So when he calls your name and there are just people lining the tee-boxes, it is quite intimidating. But at the same time, it’s what you want when you’re playing at the highest level. It’s what you play golf for,” Hollick said.
“I was keeping score - I played it like a normal tournament. I finished one over for the four rounds. Today wasn’t fantastic, I had a 73. The other days I went two-over, one-under and one-under.
“It’s been awesome. It’s been nice knowing the course to start with. The first round I was paired with Darren, and of course I played against him in the ISPS Matchplay last year. He pipped me on the last hole there, so it was nice to play with him for three days.”
But Fichardt’s isn’t the only major scalp Hollick has “claimed” in his life. In 2005, he beat the mightily-impressive Grace to the SA Boys under-19 title, and it was one of the crowning achievements of an amateur career that included a win at the 2011 Club World Championships.
And, having witnessed the dizzy heights that 2005 runner-up Grace has scaled in the last 12 months, Hollick, who joined the Sunshine Tour last year, justifiably believes that a glittering career for himself could well be in store.
“Without a doubt. I had a good chat with him when we played our practice round, and this is his sixth year on tour. So the fame and glory for the guys doesn’t come around straight off the bat. I think it takes a couple of years. I gained an exemption for this year, so no more pre-qualifying. So hopefully I can turn one of those starts into a win and take it from there,” the Mount Edgecombe golfer said.
“There’s obviously a lot of people who’ve come down and supported me. And it’s good to play this, it’s good to get my name out there and let people see how I play. And hopefully good things come from there,” he added.
He’s already exhibited his class in a European Tour co-sanctioned event last year. And in years to come, the crowds may well be coming to watch Hollick in this event as a champion – not a marker.