Marco Steyn is three for three in starts and wins after his recent Free State Open victory and the diminutive Modderfontein golfer hopes to extend his purple patch with another podium finish in the South African Stroke Play Championship at Blue Valley Golf & Country Estate from 2-5 February. Steyn won the Joburg Junior Open in December and opened his 2016 account with a three stroke victory in the inaugural Leopard Trophy at Leopard Creek to vault to second the South African Golf Association (SAGA) Junior Rankings. Less than two weeks later, the 18-year-old defeated James Du Preez from Gauteng North and Ekurhuleni’s Kyle McClatchie in a sudden-death play-off at the weather-shortened Free State Open at Maccauvlei Golf Club to rise to third in the SAGA Open Amateur standings.
Steyn says it was his performance in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington that fired him up to push the envelope this season. And the stage doesn’t get much bigger than one of SAGA’s three flagship events. Steyn says: ‘I was gutted after I opened with three over 75 in the first round at the East Course. I shot rounds of 67, 63, 76 and 71 to tie for second in the Central Gauteng Open in November and won the Joburg Junior Open a month later with rounds of 70 and 66 at the same course. I felt better when I saw I was tied with players like Matteo Manassero and Jake Roos, who has won how times in South Africa and twice on the Challenge Tour, but I played even worse in the second round with a 78 at the West Course . I realised after the tournament that I tried too hard to make up for the bad start at the East. After I missed the cut, I realised that I pushed too hard. I put myself under a lot of pressure to perform at a level that I am not ready for yet.’
Watching Haydn Porteous defeat Zander Lombard to lift the Joburg Open title on Sunday helped the TuksSport Golf Academy player to realign his goals for 2016. He says: ‘Haydn and Zander won a lot of amateur events and both reached the number one spot in the Open Amateur rankings, but it took them both time to start performing in the pro ranks. I had to start at the bottom in junior golf and work my way up until I got into the top five. Same story on the Open Amateur circuit to break into the top five. So I decided to use the experience to drive my goals this year. The lesson I learned is that golf is a marathon, not a race. You have to make the most of your opportunities and that’s the attitude I took into the play-off at the Free State Open. I was one behind after a first round 68 and I three-putted 18 in the second round for a 69. But when I made the play-off at seven-under, I knew I had a chance to win and I started with a clean slate.’
All three players hit irons off the deck at 10. Steyn hit five-iron to eight feet, De Preez hit his second to 10 feet and McClatchie left himself a 20 foot putt for birdie. Steyn says: ‘This year is all about taking the opportunities and making them count and it started at the Free State Open. I nailed that eight-foot putt for birdie to win and that’s the attitude I’ll take into the SA Stroke Play Championship.’ Having international players like defending champion Ugo Coussard from France, world number 21 Grant Forrest from Scotland, reigning Boys Amateur champion Marcus Svensson from Sweden and Ireland’s Jack Hume, who sits at 41 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, in the field this year just motivates Steyn even more to reach for the stars.
He says: ‘There will be a lot of guys at Blue Valley next week who can strike the ball really well and who can putt well, but hopefully I’m the guy who makes the crucial shots count.’
Photo credit: Ernest Blignault