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Dylan's best is yet to come

Heartbreak for Dylan Frittelli, but at the end of a remarkable 73-hole effort in China, the Johannesburg-born star said it best: "I let it go there in the end but I’m still proud of the way I played this week. It’s a great result: 17-under par on this golf course is nothing to scoff at.

"I'm proud of Alex (Levy) too, he played well there to come back. Most people probably thought I had it in the bag with 18 holes to go but he stuck to it and played well there in the playoff.”

Bravo for the humility and grace in defeat, but further kudos must go to the quality of golf he produced. Frittelli's has been an interesting case-in-point to date, and there is a school of thought that his progress since joining the paid ranks in 2012 has been slower than expected. After all, he departed our shores for the University of Texas in 2008 as our No 1-ranked amateur and junior, and having won both the SA Boys Championship and Junior World.

And in his time at college, he absolutely flourished. It's been well documented that he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth's over there, but Frittelli was no also-ran. Success emanated over the years, and it all culminated in a dramatic, 30-foot monster putt to win the 2012 NCAA Championship for his team, the Texas Longhorns. It was the university's first triumph in 40 years since an outfit including Messrs Crenshaw and Kite did the business.

That, and numerous other achievements in his senior year earned him First Team All-American status and the prestigious Byron Nelson Award, and although such accolades often fly under the radar of the mainstream South African public, he enjoyed numerous sponsor invites on the European Tour for the remainder of the 2012 season after turning pro.

But there wasn't much to speak of in the way of results, and the following year it was onto the hard grind of the European Challenge Tour. He would pick up a victory in 2013 at the Karnten Golf Open in Austria, while also winning on the Big Easy Tour that year. But he perhaps didn't kick on as he may have hoped in the two seasons that followed, both home and abroad.

That all began to change in the 2016 season, with some strong finishes on the Sunshine Tour, the Challenge Tour and the European Tour itself - most notably a playoff defeat at the Australian PGA. Having earned his main tour card by virtue of an eighth-place finish on the Challenge Tour's money list for 2016, he's quietly asserted his authority on the Race to Dubai since the turn of the year too.

In fact, he's come in the top 20 in five out of nine starts in 2017, and the direction of travel has been steadily upwards. A week ago, a steady four rounds in Shenzhen saw him post a T-5 finish. And then came the Volvo China Open - a week in which he blitzed the unsuspecting Topwin course with a 63 and a 64 in the middle two rounds.

Obviously, the final nine holes, where a four-shot lead was squandered, will be difficult to digest. But Frittelli actually did little wrong - it was a case of a couple of poor shots, with some fairly dire luck to boot. And he showed he could bounce back too, with that glorious tee shot on the short par-four 15th; all the more impressive having seen Levy make birdie up ahead. He also made a series of clutch putts down the stretch, which, even if for the purposes of damage control for the most part, were gutsy. So even if the scoreboard might suggest it, Sunday wasn't a systemic breakdown or choke by any means – it was simply a demonstration of why it is so difficult to join the winners' circle.

"I’m sure I’m going to win, hopefully this season," the 26-year old said afterwards. "That would be a great goal to achieve. I am hoping to have a very long career so I’m not going to let this get me down or be upset with anything."

Bear in mind, these measured, perspective-filled words were articulated mere minutes after the gutting defeat to Levy. There lies a wise head on these young shoulders, and although it may have happened a year or two later than some enthusiastic supporters may have predicted, Frittelli is now mixing it with the best of them.

He hasn't got there through handouts from sponsors either. This is a battle-hardened, steely character who's had to experience a few highs, lows and plateaus to get to where he is today, and he'll be all the stronger for it. His talent now stands on the cusp of being fulfilled, and with a bit of hot form thrown into the mix, dizzy heights look set to be scaled - heights that far exceed simply being a European Tour winner.

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