Maritzburg golfer smiling after one ‘Nel’ of a year

2010-12-16 00:00

COLIN Nel squeaked into the 100th SA Open that starts today, but that’s just the way things are going for the bubbly Maritzburg golfer at the moment.

“I shot 71 and made it in on the number,” he beamed when The Witness spoke to him after Tuesday’s qualifier at Mount Edgecombe and Royal Durban.

“I had told my parents that I would be happy to get into one of the last two events for the year,” he explained.

“So to get into both is pretty awesome,” he continued.

It has been a heady last few months for Nel, with a couple of top 20 finishes in the last batch of winter events on the Sunshine Tour, followed by a dominant showing at the notorious Tour school, before he banked a healthy cheque at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship.

“I have had a good run lately, but there are a number of reasons for that,” he says.

One of the quirkier reasons centres on his new set of golf clubs that never quite made it to the eager owner.

“I was supposed to have them for a tournament in George, but they somehow got misplaced by the airline. So I had to keep playing with my old set, and I have suddenly started hitting them really well again,” he chuckled.

The new clubs are still untouched, but Nel has plans to break them in over the Christmas break.

“I will try them out, but I figured that I might as well continue with the old set while I was going well with it. If it ain’t broke, they say, you mustn’t fix it.”

For one to understand just how massive the last month has been for Nel, you first have to realise just how barren his winter was.

He was forced to qualify for just about every tournament, and the pressure told as he barely made a cent until August.

“It was very tough, and the constant effort of having to pre-qualify took a lot out of me.”

“It was like playing two tournaments in the same week, and I found it really difficult to raise myself for the proper tournament after having had to do so much to get into it,” he reflected.

Another major factor has been the help of a sports psychologist, whom Nel credits with giving him a much calmer approach to the vagaries of professional golf.

“She comes from a sporting background herself, so it’s nice to talk to someone that can relate to your frame of mind in competition,” he said.

Nel almost didn’t go to Tour school, but a strong word from fellow Maritzburg product Neil Schietekat convinced him otherwise.

“I speak to ‘Skitty’ almost every day,” Nel explained.

“He told me that I should really go to Tour school and try to improve my Tour card.”

Looking back, Schietekat was spot-on.

“I probably owe him a pint or two after that,” Nel acknowledged.

“He has been on the circuit for four years now, so he has shown me the ropes this year.

“But it’s also nice to have a mate on Tour who you can just talk ‘kak’ with; it can take a bit of the pressure away.”

Indeed, a peek into the life of a rookie reveals a lonely existence.

There is pressure to earn money right away in order to cover travel costs, accommodation and even the bits and pieces needed to play better.

“Ja, it’s tough out there,” Nel says.

“Brutal” is probably closer to the mark, but things will be a lot easier next year when he has automatic entry to many more events.

“I’m going to try to get a good start in those co-sanctioned events at the start of the year, because that takes a lot of pressure off for the rest of the season,” he pointed out.

With the Sunshine Tour zig-zagging across the country, Nel has considered making the move up north to the big city.

“Ja, maybe next year. But I am actually quite comfortable at home right now,” he adds.

“I do my range work at the Golden Horse, and work on my short game at Maritzburg Golf Club.

“Besides, my parents are far more understanding about unpaid rent than any landlord would be.”

Despite a testing year, Nel has retained his sense of humour. Now he is after some serious cents in the pocket.

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