Award-winning Danie just loves to play
You’d be hard pressed to find a man more passionate about the game of golf than 2012 Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year Danie van Tonder.
The 21 year-old turned pro in 2011, and, after gaining his Sunshine Tour card for 2012 through a second-place finish at Qualifying School, enjoyed a scintillating season in which he claimed five finishes inside the top five, along with more than R650 000 in earnings.
But indeed it is the training routine of the charismatic Van Tonder which is so extraordinary. The Ebotse Golf and Country Estate professional has a distinct indifference to hitting balls at the range, but more than makes up for it in course mileage.
“I work hard on my game, just like Jbe (Kruger),” Van Tonder told supersport.com. “I play 36 holes every morning at Ebotse. I finish at 12 o’clock, and then after that I practise at the driving range in Gilloolys.
"I start at seven in the morning, and I whip around the course in four of five hours. I prefer playing to practising – I find it helps me when I spend lots of time on the course.”
“I also do boxing for fitness. When I’ve got time and I’m at home I go down to the boxing club in Edenvale, and I go work out for an hour or two. It’s good for my upper-body and it keeps me strong,” he added.
The unorthodox-swinging Van Tonder regularly threatened the top of the leaderboard in his rookie year, but it was a 15th-place finish at the European Tour-sanctioned Alfred Dunhill Championship in December that ultimately secured the prestigious award ahead of his colleague Ruan de Smidt.
And for Van Tonder, who felt honoured to receive the Bobby Locke Trophy, it is the more lucrative co-sanctioned events where he hopes to make his mark so that he may realise his ambition of gaining a European Tour card.
“The award really meant a lot to me to be honest. I feel more comfortable on the Tour now, and it’s like I’ve found my feet. I just feel more confident as a player so that’s great for me.
“I’m trying to prioritise the co-sanctioned events now. Obviously being bigger events there’s more money, and if I can do well in tournaments like this it will make it easier for me to get onto the European Tour, which is a big goal of mine. I want to try and win one of these big events so that I can make it this year,” Van Tonder explained.
A win at any of the co-sanctioned events would yield Van Tonder a card until the end of 2014.
Having made the cut at this week’s Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club with only one stroke to spare, a victory was always likely to be out of reach in such low-scoring conditions.
However, an impressive 67 on day three at the East course has rocketed him up the leaderboard, and a strong finish is now well within his grasp.
“I was really happy with my round out there. I made some good birdies when I needed to. I made some stupid pars as well, and I missed a few putts from 10 feet. But overall it was a nice round and I’m happy with where it leaves me,” said Van Tonder.
After picking up the game of golf at an early age, there was little doubt in Van Tonder’s mind about his career path in life.
An unwavering self-belief and a determination to succeed has helped him build on his prolific years as an amateur with a sensational start to his professional career.
But the light-hearted Van Tonder simply loves what he does, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“I played rugby when I was young, but that was long ago,” he recalled. “I started golf when I was nine, and I haven’t looked back since. I believed in my ability so I didn’t even finish school. I dropped out in standard eight – I hated school. Since then it’s just been golf on a fulltime basis, and it’s gone well so far.
“I still love playing golf, and I’m really enjoying my career. Being on tour is great, and the girls are great too!” Van Tonder laughed.
Given his achievements in such a short space of time and his remarkable commitment to his game, great things can be expected of one of South Africa’s finest budding talents.
But Van Tonder chooses not to get too carried away with views to the future, and instead joked: “I’m only 21, and everyone keeps telling me that I’ve got time on my side. But I feel old hey!”