Tips for young hopefuls from rising golf star, PMB’s Neil Schietekat

2010-02-26 00:00

THE life of a professional golfer is not all birdies and bagfuls of dollars, and Maritzburg’s Neil Schietekat has given The Witness an insight into the challenges young hopefuls face in the bid for survival, never mind glory.

Now in his fourth season on the Sunshine Tour, Schietekat has settled into tour life and is handily placed in the top 20 of the Order of Merit after a good start to the season.

“Look, the pressures you face as a new pro are immense,” the lanky Schietekat said ahead of this week’s Vodacom Championship in Pretoria.

“The mental strain you take from trying to pre-qualify, and then if you do that trying to make the cut, can make life very tough for a young player,” he reflected.

“Put it this way, when you are playing well and making good money, it’s the best job in the world.

“But if you fall off and start struggling … all sorts of things start going into your head, and you have no one to turn to,” he added.

Schietekat has major ambitions, including trying to crack into the pinnacle of golf, the U.S. PGA Tour at the end of 2010.

But he has also had his problems, especially at the end of 2009, when — in his own words — he couldn’t sink a putt for love or money.

He rubbished mischevious rumours that he chucked all the putters in his garage onto the N1, but he admits that he was in a bad way.

“It is very frustrating, because you’re hitting the ball well, your irons are on fire, but when you get on the dance floor, you don’t know what to do,” he reflected.

“Schiety” or “The Kat” as he is known, made a vow to iron out his putting problems during the latter stages of the winter tour, so that his game would be in better shape for the lucrative summer swing.

That has already paid dividends, with a healthy pay cheque at the recent Joburg Open evidence that he is headed in the right direction.

“You know, I was leading there after a great first round, and a few people have since asked me when I am going to win my first pro tournament.

“I tell them the same thing, which is that I will try every week until it happens, but I won’t dwell on it anymore.”

Schietekat made that mistake last season, where he started worrying about where he was in the field, instead of taking care of his own game.

“It’s very easy to start dwelling on missed putts and adding up how much money you missed out on. It can really get you down.

“But going forward, I have decided to keep things simple, and if it comes together and I am in contention on Sunday, then great. Guys tend to forget how much talent is out there, and not even Tiger Woods wins every week,” he explained.

To unwind from the rigours of course life, Schietekat has found a balance between mates, travel and a new lady friend, whom he refers to as “JK”.

“It’s important that you get away from it, otherwise you will burn out,” said Schietekat, who also does a mean Hugh Bladen impersonation according to sources.

While the rest of the country will be in World Cup mania come June, Schietekat will be honing his skills on the minor tours in America.

“It’s a sacrifice I have to make, so I won’t be here for the big event.

“But if all goes well, I will be able to remember 2010 for all the right reasons by securing a card to play in America for 2011.”

Schietekat shot a level par 72 in yesterday’s first round of the Vodacom Championship at Pretoria Country Club.

Leading scores

(All from South Africa)

64 -8 Branden Grace

65 -7 Hennie Otto, Thomas Aiken, Jbe’ Kruger

66 -6 Doug McGuigan, Divan van den Heever, Michiel Bothma, Mark Murless, Darren Blair.

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