Musi moving straight into the big league
Musiwalo Nethunzwi received a sponsor’s invitation to play the Joburg Open, and at his second professional event he’ll have to face off against South Africa and Europe’s best.
Next week, only three weeks into his rookie season, he’ll tee up alongside the likes 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, 2012 sensation Branden Grace and European Tour winner Robert Rock.
It’s been a long road for Nethunzwi, who climbed the amateur ranks through his training at Modderfontein Golf Club, but the 23-year-old’s rise into professional golf has such a natural feel that it’s hard to ignore.
In 2012 he received an invitation to play the Sunshine Big Easy Tour’s Houghton event and matched some of the finest rookies on tour. By the end of the 36-hole tournament Nethunzwi had climbed to tied third on six-under-par, signaling his bright future. At the end of 2012 Nethunzwi ranked 10th on the South African Golf Association Open Amateur listings.
So confident was the young man that he signed away his amateur status before entering Vusi Ngubeni Qualifying School. The tournament offers up 15 playing cards to previously disadvantaged golfers, and Nethunzwi comfortably earned his playing privileges after finishing in seventh place on seven-under-par.
The Soweto local had more to do before the 2013 season got underway, and headed for Sunshine Tour Qualifying School looking to improve his category on the tour.
He held his own amongst one of the strongest fields ever seen at Qualifying School and finished the 90-hole marathon with his improved card, marking his second success in as many weeks.
And then it was time to play on the Sunshine Tour.
The 2013 season began with the Telkom PGA Pro-Am, where 72 professionals pair up with amateurs. Only 10 places were available from pre-qualifying.
Nethunzwi shot 68 to share 10th with six other players and that meant a playoff. The nerves didn’t show, however, and the youngster hit his approach from the rough to eight feet and then sank the putt for birdie, securing his first entry to a professional event.
On day one he shot 73 at Centurion Country Club, having struggled to recover after making a double-bogey seven early on in his round. On day two he shot a respectable 70, but it was not enough for him to make the 36-hole cut, which fell at three-under-par. That didn’t discourage the youngster.
“It’s a dream start to 2013. I’ve been waiting for this, working hard, and the results are coming. I’m so excited – I’m the happiest man at the moment – my dream is coming true,” he said.
With his free entry to the €1,3-million Joburg Open, which starts on February 7, Nethunzwi has every chance to shine on the big stage.