The only thing to do when victory keeps eluding you is to ‘try and try again’, says double World One-Arm champion Reinard Schuhknecht.
The towering Vanderbijlpark golfer is targeting the Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open as one of the most important titles on his schedule this season and will spearhead the home challenge in the 18th edition of SA disabled golf’s flagship event alongside four-time winner Daniel Slabbert at Zwartkop Country Club from 2-4 May.
“Since my first appearance in 2007, I’ve won the Junior Division, the Arm Amputee Division and finished in the top three a couple of times, but the title keeps eluding me,” says Schuhknecht.
“Not only do I have with Daniel and James Hourigan from South Africa and defending champion Josh Williams to contend with, but there are some big guns coming over from the States and Europe this year. Hopefully having so many rivals will be just the kick I need to get the monkey off my back.”
Schuhknecht spent the last two weeks playing the IGT Tour to get into competitive mode and surviving the cut in the ERPM Challenge last week was a great confidence booster.
“It felt great to keep pace with the pros and some of the top ranked amateurs in the country,” says Schuhknecht. “I haven’t competed for a while. I wanted to get the rust off and see where I stand and I came away feeling good about my game.
“My dream ultimately is to play the pro circuit. Guys like Chad Pfeiffer from the States and Manual de los Santos from Europe already made that transition and it’s going to be awesome to go up against them next week at Zwartkop. I didn’t play my best golf in the ERPM Challenge, but I managed to score well enough. Making my first cut against the pros really boosted my confidence.”
Fate dealt Schuhknecht a heavy blow at 14 years old, but he survived the shock of an 11,000 electric current. The amputation of his right arm didn’t deter him from realising his goals and dreams and he has become a shining example of true grit and an iron will to succeed despite adversity.
Schuhknecht certainly hasn’t had a problem converting form into success abroad. In fact, he has emerged as one of the brightest stars in South African disabled golf.
In 2014, he won the World One-Arm Match Play Championship title and not only defended his title last year, but scored an unprecedented ‘double’ when he claimed the Stroke Play title as well.
He travelled to Spain where he collected the International Handisport / BGC Mallorca Open trophy and then the 24-year-old took on 40 of the best one-armed golfers from the United States and abroad in the North American One-Armed Golfers Association Championships, where he finished second in the Match Play and Stroke Play Championships.
Schuhknecht also performed very well at the Swedish Invitational in Bokskogen and in several Para-Longdrive Competitions held across the United States.
Off the golf course, he has excelled in wake boarding, completed a 900 km quad bike tour, earned certification in Padi, Nitroc and Advance Scuba Diving and qualified as a PGA Teaching Professional from the Golf Management Campus (previously called the Dale Hayes School of Excellence) in 2013.
Fear is certainly not a factor in this young gun’s life, so what does he believe stands in the way of success in the Nedbank SA Golf Disabled Open?
“I’ve gained a lot of experience competing abroad in the last two years, and with that experience came the confidence that I can win, but it’s different when you compete overseas,” he says.
“I know it sounds like it should be the other way around, but I feel less pressure on me when I compete abroad. No-one really expects you to excel and it’s pretty cool to surprise them. Here at home, everyone expects you to win.
“You also put a lot of pressure on yourself. I haven’t started well in the last couple of years and I was on the back-foot, playing catch-up. The international guys are going to take this year’s event to another level, so it’s good to know that the 15 students from the Golf Management Campus who are volunteering next week will have my back. I just need to bring the kind of form I take abroad and translate it to a strong start and then keep it going to the finish line.”