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In Focus: Michael Palmer

14th July 2020

In Focus: Michael Palmer

For many professional and aspiring professional golfers, competing on the biggest Tours and in the biggest tournaments in the world is a long-held dream, and when opportunities to explore such dreams come along, the natural instinct is to “grab the bull by the horns”, as the old adage goes.

But not all that glitters is gold.

Five years ago, a 26-year old Michael Palmer was one of the hottest players on the Big Easy Tour, notching up a fourth spot finish in the Order of Merit in a season whose highlights included two runners-up finishes, three top-fives and three top-10s. Having turned professional in that very season and with the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School beckoning, Palmer had one idea in his head.

“I played really well in 2015, arguably some of the best golf in my career,” he says from his home in Johannesburg. “Between the IGT Tour and the Big Easy Tour. I gained a lot of confidence that I would be able to compete on the Sunshine Tour. I actually managed to get my European Tour Challenge Tour card at the end of 2015. That was a huge achievement for me because I started to believe that I could possibly compete on tours around the world, never-mind just the Sunshine Tour.”

And, so he went!

A host of new challenges lay ahead as he set his sights on transferring his now-oozing confidence to an international stage, and possibly making a success of himself on the European Challenge Tour – with whom we now co-sanction three tournaments.

“My form dropped,” he says of his immediate challenge in Europe. “And my lack of experience was evident in the situation.”

He had made only four cuts all season long and for a player who now knew he could compete against the best of them, these were tough times.

“The 2016 season on the Challenge Tour was an eye-opener for me. It showed me the extent of travel that is involved. Spending months away from home and adapting to new countries, and conditions. It was a great learning experience for me. You learn a lot about yourself travelling alone and being exposed to those challenges.”

Ever so strong through adversity and trying times, Palmer still had an ace in his hand: despite what he admits to being a miserable season abroad, he still had his Sunshine Tour status back home.

“I managed to salvage what was left of my Sunshine Tour season,” he says with aid of hindsight.

“I was disappointed with my efforts in Europe and felt despondent about my future as an international competitor. Since I flew back home from Europe, it took me almost two years to get my game to a place where I could play with freedom and confidence again.”

Those two years was the same 2016 and the 2017 season when he finished 86th on the Order of Merit.

“A natural reaction to any kind of adversity is to try harder and attempt to fix the issues,” Palmer says of his next move from a place he’d found himself in.

“I went “searching”. Searching for the answers in my swing, in my routines, in my equipment, anything that I could use as the “thing” to get my game back.”

His results in the first seven events of the 2018/19 season didn’t offer much hope as he missed every cut but then, boom! His breakthrough victory in the KCB Karen Masters in Nairobi in July of 2018 and then everything seemed to fall in its right place. The win was followed by a second-place finish in the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge and a fifth-spot in the Sun Carnival City Challenge the next month. Three more top-10s – eighth in the Zanaco Masters of 2019, fifth in the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge and third in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Sishen and while he could not defend the title, his 15th place finish at the KCB Karen Masters formed part of the season’s highlights.

“I played some of my most consistent golf of my career leading up to the season, and fortunately, that form continued onto the next season,” Palmer notes.

“I think the most important factors in the success of the 2018/19 season was the growth and building that was done leading up to the season. For two years I improved my swing, mental approach, expectations and that all added up to small incremental improvements that gave me the confidence I needed to play better golf.

“I felt that I was heading for another high finish on the order of merit in 2019. I had a busy schedule towards the middle of the year. I decided to pursue sponsorship opportunities in the states, I competed in the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland, played in the Durban stretch in SA, attempted to qualify for my card at the European Q-School in Spain, rushed back for the Alfred Dunhill at Leopard Creek, and finally playing in Mauritius to cap off a stretch of miserable golf and nothing to show for my efforts to compete on tours around the world – my head was fried!

“Golf is a fickle game, one moment you are seeking new avenues to further your career and the next you are tumbling down a negative spiral of disappointment. I got ahead of myself and very quickly I learned you cannot take any achievements in this game for granted.”

Through all that, and even against a season of two-halves such as the one he had before golf was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Palmer yearns for one thing.

“I love competing and the rush of being in contention down the stretch of the final round is addictive,” he states.

“Especially when the outcome would mean a drastic change to your career. Everyone on the Sunshine Tour is able to win an event. We have world-class players on our tour and it makes it so difficult to be consistently successful. Even with the “winners’ mentality, you have to get lucky and hopefully the week your game decides to come together is the week you get the good bounces.”

He is home nursing an injury to his arm right now but he will hope the return of professional tournaments will coincide with his own recovery, and just maybe he might just get the bounces once more. Moreover, up to this point, returning back home was not such a bad idea after all.


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In Focus: Daniel Greene 1

8th July 2020

In Focus: Daniel Greene

Sometimes the toughest decisions we have to make are the ones that yield the best results.

This year marks a decade since Daniel Greene turned pro and while a win remains elusive for the KwaZulu Natal player, his time on Tour has not been a waste of his time and resources.

With 23 tournament starts to his name in his rookie season back in 2010, Greene made the cut 11 times en route to a 39th place finish in that season’s Order of Merit which Charl Schwartzel won by landslide.

The following seasons were so poor, by his own admission and standards, that the time to make that tough decision came to him at once.

“I think the first year was good,” he says, thoughtfully trying to lay down what he thinks of his decade as a Sunshine Tour professional. “and then, the next five years, I think, weren’t so great. I went through a few things; swing changes. So, I would say the first year was great, and the next five, not so great. And then, the last three or four years have not been too bad, considering how much golf I play.”

Indeed, he has not played a lot of golf in a season in the past three to four years. For that matter, the last time he clocked 20 tournaments in a single season was back in 2014, when he played 20. The previous three season’s, he’d taken part in 23, 22 and 23 events, respectively. Why, though, when his rookie season seemed to have gone well?

“I work in the winter, selling maize seeds,” he reveals, “I try to play the summer events and the first few tournaments of the season. As I said, the season’s that weren’t so great, I had to make a decision and it helps to have a different stream of income. It also helps when playing in the bigger tournaments and not feeling the pressure of having to play for an income.”

The decision to play fewer tournaments as a young and ambitious professional should be a difficult one to make, regardless of how badly you may think you perform, and for Greene who had been a sportsman his entire life – having played rugby, soccer, polo, hockey and all other kinds of ball games – to make that call must have been gutting.

“It was difficult then to make the call to play only a few months of the year,” he admits, while also noting “but if I had known then what I know now, I would have made the decision sooner.”

What changed in that space of time that Greene feels he can look back at that decision to split his year between working and playing golf and be proud of himself? Well, he played better and the results improved immensely, even with the few events he played in the four years of work and golf that followed.

Highlights of his 2010 campaign were a runner-up finish in a Vodacom Business event at Humewood and an even more impressive third-place finish at that season’s Dimension Data Pro-Am. The next seven years yielded one top-10 finish each and those included a statement-making eighth-place in the Joburg Open, in December of 2017. This was at the back of a 2016 season in which he had finished 53rd on the Order of Merit.

Greene rocked up for the 2018 Eye of Africa PGA Championship with some confidence, and why wouldn’t he; he’d just finished top 10 in a co-sanctioned event (Joburg Open) which earned him his biggest pay cheque to date. A seventh-place finish there and two more top 10s in August and September and to return for the co-sanctioned events.

In 2019 too, he was impressive at Eye of Africa finishing in 3rd place, a 15th spot at the RAM Cape Town Open and the Serengeti Tour Championship in February and March, respectively underpinned another solid finish to the season with few events played.

Since 2015 when Greene finished 76th on the Order of Merit and in what was the last of the seasons he’d finish outside of the top 60 players on Tour, and while working full time (well, at least until the winter is over) he has been a very steady player and always in and around the top 30 position on the money list.

He played 14 tournaments last season and finished 32nd on the money list. The year before that he’d played 17 events and finished 31st on the Order of Merit while he finished in the same position the previous season, with only nine starts to his name.

“If I’d known then (when he was struggling on Tour) that finding work in the winter would change my game and the way I see the game the way it has, I would have made the decision earlier,” Greene says.

Steady as his results have been, thanks to his scheduling and playing fewer tournaments, however, as a competitor and professional, Greene knows that they still haven’t brought home that elusive victory he’s been looking for. He came close in the King’s Cup last season but finished runner-up to Jaco Ahlers.

“I don’t lose sleep over it though,” he says while admitting that he has not given up on winning. “I would say I’ve had quite a few chances to win and I haven’t taken those opportunities yet but that’s golf. I think every professional golfer wants to win so I know my time will come.”

A few fun rounds with mates in the winter and a focussed practice regime for summer events which takes up to four hours a day and sometimes for up to six weeks, depending on the available time, is all Greene has in the way of getting ready for tournaments but he doesn’t regret his decision one bit.

“I tell some of the guys on Tour that if you can, find yourself some work in the winter but I don’t think it’s that easy to find work where you can just leave for golf and only work for four months of the year. But if I had known what taking a break from golf and going to work and coming back fresh would do for my golf, I certainly would have done it earlier. For me, I feel like the pressure is less when you know you’ve got another stream of income somewhere else.”


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Meticulous Frittelli eyes major success

1st July 2020

Meticulous Frittelli eyes major success

When good preparation meets opportunity, success is imminent, so goes an old saying.

Sunshine Tour player, now plying his trade on the PGA Tour in the United States, Dylan Frittelli, knows more about this than, perhaps, most of us.

A meticulous planner with attention to every detail of his game, Frittelli has always been a sportsman. As a child, he played soccer and cricket among other sports, with his father his number one hype man. In junior golf, he swiftly moved through to be recognised as his regions best and in no time, he was in the national junior teams.

In 2007, he claimed the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships and the following year, the South African Boys’ Championship. College beckoned and he went to the University of Texas, where he won the decisive match to lead his team to victory at the 2012 NCAA Championship. Ever so patient. Ever so meticulous.

“I pride myself in getting better every step of the way,” he said, speaking on the Sunshine Tour’s Out of Bounds. “I don’t believe in skipping steps, you have to go through your own process.”

His process earned him two Challenge Tour titles, a Sunshine Tour tri-sanctioned title and most recently, his maiden PGA Tour title, the John Deere Classic.

“Something needs to take a bit of time,” he says, “there have been tons of guys who became overnight sensations; won once or twice, and then they just didn’t have the staying power. I’ve always prided myself on being meticulous and not rushing things. I think that’s the sustainable way, I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong but I like stability in my golf and life in general.”

The stability of having full PGA Tour status, thanks to a win, and ability to compete at major international events is what Frittelli has always worked for. From junior to the professional athlete. And now, among the elite in the game on nothing but merit, Frittelli’s next mission is clear.

“The majors and the WGC events, that’s where my focus is now,” he says, “the John Deere Classic was huge but the crazy thing is that confidence which came after that. People talk about different stages and levels of a professional athlete’s career and I’m like “hey, I’ve won” and I had that trip to The Open, right after. So, I know the next platform for to me to shine is the majors and the WGCs.”

With success on the Sunshine Tour, the Asian Tour, the European and Challenge Tours, and now on the PGA Tour, it is not a ridiculous idea to tout Frittelli as a future winner of major events. And having seen the fruits of his process, doubting its efficiency borders on the ignorant. Be so as it may, when he returns to golf following his positive test for the Covid-19 and is cleared to play, Frittelli will challenge for titles everywhere he plays.