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24th January 2023

The Score with Keith Horne

The Score is the Sunshine Tour’s Player Blog.

Keith Horne reflects on his regular career on the Sunshine Tour, and a new phase in his life after winning the Legends Tour Qualifying School and earning his card there.

I’m more relieved than anything else after winning the Legends Tour Qualifying School. I’ve had lots of messages from my family and friends. It’s a big relief to get it done. I’ve had a lot of support and I’m just glad I didn’t let anybody down. I really want to thank everybody for their support.

Turning 50 kind of just sneaks up on you. You get so busy playing, and I’ve been so busy traveling around the world. So many people slow down when they’re in their early 40s, and I’ve been fortunate to keep playing around the world. So I wouldn’t even have blinked at turning 50. I would’ve kept going and there wouldn’t have been a change of gear. I suppose only Covid-19 forced me to sit back and reflect a bit on it. Otherwise, it’s not something I would’ve even considered.

I was pretty bad when I turned pro. I was working as Hugh Baiocchi’s apprenctice at Prince’s Grant because I had no intention of turning pro. I believed I wasn’t good enough. So I’d play a few Sunshine Tour events for fun. But it was only in 1997 that for some reason I decided to turn pro fulltime. I was 27 then. That’s why when I hit 35, I felt like I was only beginning to learn my craft while other pros my age maybe felt tired with their careers. I was only just getting excited and feeling properly competitive.

I’m pretty hard on myself, and a fear of failure was my biggest drive. I don’t like to fail. I work from the bottom up. It’s good in one sense, and bad in another. I’m petrified of failing so I’ve pushed myself every day. I played at Royal Durban and they had Warren Abery, Bradley Davison, Rory and Gary Sabbitini, and I was number five in my club side. I wasn’t a superstar. I had zero success as an amateur. But I loved golf. So looking back at how I started and to think I’m still here playing the game for a living, then I’d like to think it’s been a pretty good career.

It took me a long time to feel competitive worldwide. It was a very hard grind after that first win. I had no sponsor backing. I had qualified as a labour lawyer, but I had no desire to go that route. Somehow I managed to always find the extra gear just to keep going. And then came what was clearly a defining moment in my career. It turned my whole career around. It was the 2004 dunhill championship at Houghton Golf Club. I was completely broke. My wife, Karen, is lying in bed next to me pregnant with our first child. I was having anxiety attacks and playing the worst golf ever. Then on the Monday of the dunhill championship, Karen asked me if I would go and see a hypnotist. I thought it was a crazy idea, but I was so desperate I would’ve gone to see a witchdoctor if I thought it would help. So I went to see him in Bedfordview on the Wednesday before the tournament. All he did was teach me to relax and meditate and visualise good shots. That’s one thing I’m very good at –  visualisation. So I related to it immediately. I shot 73 in the first round, but I felt great. I felt like a different human being and felt more in control of my game and myself. The next day I shot 67 and made the cut by one shot. I felt like a millionaire. Then on the Saturday I shot 63 and was leading early in the day before the rest of the field went out. And on the last day I got it going a bit but then got a bit nervous and shot 71. But I finished tied 14th and made close to R100 000. And that was it. I finished tied 10th in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, third in the Nashua Masters and third in the Tour Championship after that. And I was on my way. It was a huge turning point for me. If it didn’t turn out like that, I would’ve given up that year for sure. Once I got the bit between my teeth I really enjoyed it. I achieved things for me that I never thought possible.

I still feel like I haven’t reached my potential. I still feel like I have so much to achieve. I try and take time off, but I can’t. I love to play. I’ll play on my own if I have to. I enjoy competing and playing. A few years ago I played with Ernie (Els) in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. Ernie was one of my idols. But the biggest thing that struck me when we played together is how much he enjoyed playing golf. He loves playing tournament golf. That was a revelation for me. I think I’m the same in my pure enjoyment of just playing this game. – Michael Vlismas