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17th August 2022

The Score with Tristen Strydom

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s Player Blog.

Tristen Strydom reflects on his past Sunshine Tour season and that breakthrough victory in the Tour Championship.

It was the right time and place to make my breakthrough in last season’s Tour Championship. It’s obviously very satisfying in a way because for a long time I haven’t been my normal self in terms of being confident on the golf course and not worried about my game. I felt it should just come to me, but it’s been an uphill road since I joined the Tour. That first year on Tour in 2017, I failed miserably. I was very low after that. I was really disappointed. My caddie just kept saying to me to be patient because I was playing well, and it will come.

After yet another runner-up finish in 2021 I took on Grant Veenstra as my coach. It was really tough on me those first few months because I’ve never been in that kind of structured setup, and I had to show a lot of discipline to myself and make sacrifices. I don’t mean to sound arrogant when I say this, but golf has always been the easy part for me. I’ve played golf since I was a year and four months old. It really does come naturally to me. But when I turned pro, I went from knowing exactly what I did with a golf ball to being confused. There is not that sense of urgency in amateur golf. You’re still a youngster and under your parents’ roof. Then you turn pro and suddenly it’s welcome to the big boys. It took me a while to find my feet. There wasn’t anybody who showed me the ropes. But I’m also a bit different like that. I don’t like asking questions. I like doing my own thing because I feel that when you figure it out yourself, there’s that sense that you who did it. This is a mental game, and that’s what has clicked for me. You don’t have to play perfect golf to contend and win golf tournaments. 

I’m turning into a better professional in the sense of being more dedicated to what I’m doing. I’m more patient in my build-up and more strict in my course management. I never really understood the importance of that before. Discipline seems like a harsh word, but I found the real power in doing the same thing for the past nine months every day and trusting that it’s good enough to win golf tournaments. Last season I took the time to work really hard on my mental game. That’s a big key out here on Tour when you’re trying to beat seriously good golfers. We can all do everything with the golf ball out here. What makes the difference is that you need to be mentally tough out here.

I have some great opportunities now. I’m going to play the Challenge Tour and hopefully get my DP World Tour card at the end of this season. You know, in golf you always compare yourself to other guys. I compare myself to a lot of my peers who are in the top 100 in the world, playing in Majors and winning on the DP World Tour and PGA Tour. For me there was a sense of, ‘what am I missing to get to that level?’. I need motivation like that. I want to be playing on the main tours. I want to be in the top 100 in the world. I want to try and win Majors.

Photo Credit: Sunshine Tour

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27th May 2022

The Score with Dylan Naidoo

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s Player Blog.

Dylan Naidoo reflects on the journey to improvement he’s been on, and the plans he has for his career in 2022. 

I feel like I am playing well enough to let the performance take care of itself. With the new season starting on the Sunshine Tour, I had planned to get some good tournament golf in and get myself as high up as possible on the Luno Order of Merit before heading off to the Korn Ferry Tour later this year.

It’s such a tough learning experience over there, especially the KornFerry Tour. It’s elite golf over there. The American system is extremely cut throat. I played with two golfers in the final stage of the KornFerry Q School who both had their PGA Tour cards the year before. It’s not easy, but that’s pro golf. If it was easy everybody would be playing. It opened my eyes to the improvements I need to make in my game, and how the level of talent out there is extremely high and the margins are so fine.

I went to a couple of qualifying schools to give myself the opportunity to test myself somewhere other than on the Sunshine Tour. I wanted to answer the question: Have I improved? Have I got to the point where I can find membership on a different tour. That was the first step in realising my game is good and, while there is still some improvement I’m working on, it is able to translate onto a world stage.

It was my dad who first got me into golf. He was a sportsman and he played tennis, cricket and then later golf. I naturally graduated to those sports as well. I was a kid who was always determined and driven to be good, so I’d want to hit cricket balls for hours and play tennis for hours. But in those sports you need somebody else to help you out, whereas with golf I could go to the range and be there all day on my own.

The first real realisation I had that I could be quite good at golf was when I won the SA Boys Under-17 title. I’d played junior events and for Central Gauteng, and you think you’re good. But then one day my dad said I need to put everything I have into this game. My dad has these moments when he gives me these hard truths. At the time I’m always like, ‘Yeah yeah’. But then I realised he’s right. I needed to put more work into my golf. I realised with that SA Boys title that if I do put in the work I’ll get the reward. Basically, it was a realisation that if I work hard, I have enough talent to make a career out of this.

I’m really enjoying the journey I’m on now. I’ve chatted with somebody like Brandon Stone a lot and about this journey and what’s pushed him and driven him. And another good friend of mine, Viktor Hovland, has also had a great influence. We played a number of junior events together and his rise has been so exponential. You just see it at that age, and then you see them become multiple winners. Viktor has been a real case study for me with the golf swing. He’s somebody I’ve watched and tried to emulate.

I love visiting museums and big cities. A science or natural history museum. And I’ve now taken to visiting art museums as well. I’ve developed quite a love for modern art. I just think it’s such an impactful medium. It’s just incredible to see what human ingenuity can result in. I’ve been to The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) and that’s now my gold standard.

Photo Credit: Sunshine Tour

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The Score - Estiaan Conradie

25th August 2021

The Score with Estiaan Conradie

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s new Player Blog.

Estiaan Conradie claimed his maiden Sunshine Tour victory in the SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino at Wingate Park Country Club.

It’s a massive relief for me to win. Especially after coming back from my hip surgery in 2020. I had to go through a lot of rehab and it was a massive process, so to get through it and out the other side is very rewarding. It was a tough few months. It was in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown that I was operated on. It’s tough because you feel bad for everyone else who is struggling with this pandemic and I’m sitting there just wanting to get an operation to get back on the golf course. But I also had to work through what I had to work through. But yes, there is always somebody out there who has it tougher than you do.

The celebrations after that win were awesome. It was so nice to have my friends and family there. We had a couple of drinks on Friday night, and luckily it didn’t continue into Saturday. But I was happy I could celebrate with everyone there with me.

When my brother Ruan won in eSwatini in 2019, I was the only one with him there. So for me to have everyone there at Wingate for my win was really special. I’m sure Ruan would’ve loved the same for his first win. It’s awesome to be able to share all the hard work with the family and friend group, and to show them the result of all that hard work and support.

It’s been years of hard work and dedication to the careers of both me and Ruan. You know, your family is with you through thick and thin. It’s a long journey, and finally they get to enjoy the reward with you and be able to see with their own eyes what the result of all of that hard work and support is.

The bond between me and Ruan has been very close since we’ve been on the Sunshine Tour together. He is two years and two months older than me. At school we were close but we didn’t really do much sport together because we played on different teams and so on. Then after school Ruan had two years where he was playing amateur golf and I didn’t see that much of him. But when I finished school, from then up to when we got our Sunshine Tour cards and up to our first wins now, it’s been a long journey and we’ve stuck together through it. It’s been really good to have him by my side. He’s helped me along the way. It’s been great to have someone alongside you week in and week out working on the same dream. We’ve had fun times and some tough times together as well.

It definitely feels different to be a Sunshine Tour winner now. Everybody at the next event greets you differently. You feel different. You kind of have to manage the expectations now because you can’t win every week on Tour. But hopefully if I go through the same process each week then I can build on that win, which is what I want  to do.

I think the best congratulations I received were all the messages on Facebook and Instagram from my girlfriend, Cindy. She’s posted and reposted a lot of the Sunshine Tour content from my win. She’s been with me through it all now and she means so much to me.

I’m exempt on the Tour now which is great. But it also means I no longer have an excuse to skip any family events. I am skipping one event to go to a wedding in my girlfriend’s family. I can’t miss those anymore. I have no excuses now.

I just want to say a massive thanks for what the Sunshine Tour has been doing for us during this Covid-19 pandemic. They’ve really stood by us and the caddies and their staff. They have done a tremendous job and we really appreciate them. They have been working really hard behind the scenes and I just want to say a big thanks to them for that.

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The Score hosted by Mustek - Louis de Jager

7th July 2021

The Score hosted by Mustek Louis de Jager

Louis de Jager qualified for his first Major when he successfully came through Final Qualifying for The Open at Royal St George’s this July. The five-time Sunshine Tour winner reflects on this achievement as well as some of the challenges of being a touring professional during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s a proud moment for me to play in my first Major. At the same time, it’s also a relief. This has been a goal of mine for quite some time now, so I’m really pleased to achieve this.

Some of my favourite golf memories have come from watching The Open. I’d say my favourite of those was definitely watching Ernie (Els) win both of his in 2002 and 2012. It was also heartbreaking watching him lose a few of them. And then obviously, it was so great to see Louis (Oosthuizen) win in 2010. I’ve always enjoyed watching The Open, and seeing our South Africans do well there.

Traveling during Covid-19 has been weird at times. I was in Germany the week before, so I just needed all my correct documents in place because the UK is very strict at the moment. I wasn’t looking forward to isolating, and I was very relieved to have been given an exemption from this. But I was the only person in the hotel I stayed at. I wasn’t allowed in the clubhouse at West Lancashire. I had to eat outside. They even set up a mobile toilet just for me. Only I was allowed to use it. It kind of felt like I had the virus because I was separated from everyone. But otherwise it was fine.

When I made that 9 on the 11th hole during the second round, it was completely out of the blue. I was playing so well for 28 holes and then it happened. I definitely didn’t see it coming. I actually didn’t know what to even think at that moment. But what helped me is that the walk from the 11th green to the 12th tee is quite long. And you walk past the scoreboard. Then I saw there was one player on five under and a few on four under. So I knew I’d dropped down to four under but was still lying tied third and still in it. So I kept on encouraging myself, and it worked. I birdied three of my final five holes to finish second on seven under par. 

I had a lot of congratulatory messages from family and friends. But I think most of the messages came from caddies. There are a few caddies that want to caddie in The Open for me. So I’m getting messages from all over from the caddies.

Nothing has really changed in my game. I’ve just been working consistently on improving my golf. I’ve just been trying to do the same good things over and over, and that’s really been working well for the last year and a half.

Seeing the success of my fellow Sunshine Tour players overseas has definitely inspired me. It feels like we’ve definitely created a trend in Europe. Seeing Garrick (Higgo), Dean (Burmester) and Darren (Fichardt) playing well definitely gets the juices going and makes you also want to do well. I think as South Africans we have a good energy going out on Tour at the moment. 

The most challenging thing for me has been being away from my family. That’s really put me out of my comfort zone. Being alone on Tour and staying alone in hotel rooms is also challenging in this time. Off the golf course you feel really outside of your comfort zone. On the golf course, fortunately things still feel more or less the same. But you definitely feel it off the golf course at the moment. 

My desire is still very high. I want to achieve a lot of things. It’s been challenging traveling and playing in these times, but at least we are playing. At least we can earn a living. But I’ve got a lot I still want to achieve and I’m looking forward to the next few events this year.

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The Score Alex Haindl 1

10th June 2021

The Score Alex Haindl

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s new Player Blog.

Alex Haindl recently claimed his fourth Sunshine Tour title when he won the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City on the demanding Gary Player Country Club course.

I was six years old when I made the decision that golf is all I want to do with my life. What do you really know when you’re six? But my dad had started playing golf when I was four years old, and I started playing with him. Golf has really been the only thing I was ever going to do. I’d love to be an F1 driver, but I don’t think that will work out for me.

I didn’t play much amateur golf. My parents got divorced and I moved with my dad to Bloemfontein. We never really had much money. My dad worked really hard, and to play the top amateur events was expensive. I was 17 years old when I went to the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School for the first time. Basically, my dad and I decided that whether it was playing amateur events or pro events it was going to cost money, so you might as well be making a bit of money doing it. I missed my card the first time, so that year I did a bit of teaching and I worked in bars and as a waiter just to fund life basically, and then have an opportunity to play. I then got my tour card the next year.

Tour life is very expensive when you’re just starting out. Although these days I see a lot of youngsters who seem to find sponsors very easily, and who have the backing. You see them earning R50 000 from 25 tournaments, but next year they’re back. If you think what a season can cost in expenses, then I don’t know how they’re doing it.

I turned pro in 2000. In 2006, my dad took out a bank loan for me so I could play a fuller season. So I played more and played a bit better, and I won my first Sunshine Tour event in the Suncoast Classic at Durban Country Club. That changed things because then I was exempt and could play more. From there on it got a bit easier.

My dad did everything he could for me and my career, and still does. He introduced me to the game and helped me all the way. It’s vital having somebody like that. In the last 20 years I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached the point where I’ve said, ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough of this’. To have somebody like my dad, and my wife, who keep pushing you on is so important. Those are the people that keep you in this game. Shaun Pollock (former South African cricket captain) is also a great friend and mentor for me. We chat quite a lot and he’s really helped me with trying to keep my mind in the right place, especially when I’ve been through some tough times.

The issues with my back have been a bit of a disaster. It started in 2010 when I was playing a bit in Europe. At first my back would give up on me every two months. Then it became every six weeks, and then every four weeks. I had weeks where I would travel from one tournament to the next and be in bed until the first round because of the pain. I couldn’t play practice rounds, which is not ideal. In 2015 I just couldn’t go on. I couldn’t walk because of the nerve pain. So I had surgery. It went allright at first. But the problem is you’re out of the game for seven or eight months. Then when you come back, the big thing is that mentally you don’t trust you can move again because your brain is fearful of the pain. So that takes a while to overcome. It took me a year before I could start playing half decent again. In 2018 I had a good year and thought here’s a chance at bigger things again. And then at the end of the year my back gave in again. I had to have surgery again, and I’ve been on the comeback since. My chiropractor Sammy Pearson has been an incredible help. And my trainer Herman Liebenberg of SportsFit Gym works with me about four to five times a week on strengthening exercises. I’ve also started working with Grant Veenstra as my coach. And Natasha Fichardt helps me as my sports psychologist. It’s all part of that thing that drives you to constantly want to improve. I like trying to improve all the time. It’s always been that for me. Sure, I enjoy my downtime of watching F1 and UFC, listening to music and spending time with my family. But I can’t sit around and do nothing for too long.

This most recent win means a lot because it’s basically confirmation that I can play again. After all of the issues I’ve had, it’s kind of confirmation that things are back to where they should be. Winning is so hard because it’s either going to be your week or not. I’ve played with so many guys who’ve won and it’s just a matter of it being their week. I’ve seen guys get the weirdest bounces and it’s unbelievable the things that happen to guys who win. I really believe that 99% of the time it just comes down to whether it’s your week or not. You have to do so many things right to win, and you can let it slip so easily. With my recent win, I felt like I handled it so well and was able to change my approach to the last three holes and par my way in instead of pushing too hard. It’s hard to stay disciplined enough to change your strategy when you need to.

I have a wife and two girls at home. The older they get the harder it becomes to leave home because they understand you’re going to be away for four to six weeks. Sometimes it can feel like you’re leading two lives, because when you’re at a tournament you’re just in that zone and doing your own thing.

The Score Alex Haindl

I’ve always been open to people asking me for advice and I do enjoy it. I enjoy coaching and working with better players and youngsters. My focus is more on teaching people how to play than the technical aspects of game. You can teach somebody the perfect way to swing a club, but when you get on Tour and in the heat of competition, there are so many factors to consider such as learning to play off different grasses, or in different temperatures and at different altitudes. On Tour you really need to understand your own tendencies, especially under pressure. That’s what we mean when we talk about controlling your misses. You need to know what your tendencies are and if it goes wrong on a shot, where will it go wrong and how can you control that as much as possible.

Winning four times on the Sunshine Tour is great. But I think a moment that stands out most for me in my career is the putt I made to get my European Tour card in 2011. I had to make a par on the last to get it, and I holed a huge putt. That next season playing in Europe is the most I’ve ever enjoyed a season. It was tough and I had back pain, but that was the season I enjoyed most. It was nice just being out there and playing for better money and on great courses. It was a hell of an experience playing Royal Portrush and so on. That’s what motivates me to keep improving. To get back there, and to climb the world rankings again.