Remarkably Sunshine Tour talent Daniel Greene remains winless, but he won’t stop chasing hard, writes MIKE GREEN.
Daniel Greene was just over two months into his professional career when he produced the kind of performance which may have upped the level of expectation to an unreasonable degree.
He carded a final-round 65 at the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt in February 2010 to finish third behind Darren Fichardt and Louis Oosthuizen. Behind him were other eventual winners of that title, Branden Grace, Hennie Otto and Jaco Ahlers. Also behind him were the likes of Neil Schietekat, Dean Burmester and Louis de Jager, all of whom would go on to win on the Sunshine Tour.
Greene is still waiting.
That’s despite nearly pulling it off at the end of July 2010, when he surrendered a lead to Ulrich van den Berg at the Vodacom Business Origins of Golf event at Humewood, making double-bogeys on 17 and 18.
Given his record after that – it took over a year for him to get into the top 10 in a tournament again – you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking the defeat had scarred him. And you’d be right. ‘That hurt a lot,’ he recalls. ‘If I’d won then, I think I would have believed in myself to a much greater degree than I did for a long time. It took me a while to get over that.’
And when he made three bogeys in the final four holes at February’s Eye of Africa PGA Championship to let Louis de Jager through for the victory, one would have been forgiven for wondering whether he had, in fact, got over it.
‘I actually learned a lot from what happened in 2010,’ he says. ‘In fact, I was able to apply a lot of it to the final round of Eye of Africa. I didn’t choke.’
He attributes what appeared to be an implosion to a combination of bad luck and bad reads on the greens. ‘I didn’t play bad shots, especially on 17 and 18,’ he says. ‘I walked up to my ball after the tee shot, and the spectators told me it had bounced straight into the rough. I was expecting to find it in the middle of the fairway.
‘And I just misread putts at critical times – three holes in a row, in fact, on 9, 10 and 11. And then again on 18, where I had a chance to get into the playoff.’
It could appear that part of the problem is him playing too aggressively, which seems odd in someone as outwardly calm as he is. But no.
‘If I’m as laid-back as my old man, I’m the calmest person on the planet,’ he laughs. ‘And that helped me get through the tough times. If anything, I am perhaps too defensive when I play, and this was especially the case at Eye of Africa – there were times when I had a sand-wedge in my hand and I was overly careful with the shot because I didn’t want to go over the green and I ended up too short.
‘But I’ve learned to try to make sure I’m never defensive when I’m playing. Maybe I need to be less protective of what I have if I’m going to break through and win soon. I just haven’t been in that position for a long time. It felt new to me. Now that I’ve got back into contention, it felt really good to be in that position.’
For someone who has been so close to winning, not making the breakthrough was hard on him for a while. ‘There was definitely a stage when I thought about packing it in,’ he says.
It was an easy path to follow back in 2015, when he had a chest injury. ‘I felt a pain in my chest while I was hitting balls and I carried right on hitting balls,’ he laughs.
‘But I also started working for a seed company in 2015, just to try to make some money in the winter months. I still do it, in fact, and that takes the pressure off me at tournaments, knowing I have another source of income. While I was working and I was injured, it was easy to think about and talk about not playing golf for a living. But people I know kept telling me I’m too talented to stop, and I listened to them.’
Like all South African golfers playing on the Sunshine Tour, Greene harbours ambitions of making it on one of the international circuits, even though he has only managed a best of a share of eighth at the co-sanctioned events in
South Africa – at the 2017 Joburg Open.
‘I did find it tough to make the step up in the earlier tournaments,’ he says.
‘At the beginning of my career, I think I missed the cut at the first seven co-sanctioned tournaments I played. It was a matter of me getting over the scale of the events – everything about them was intimidating for me. But now I understand that it’s just another tournament. It also helps that I have another income in my life, so it doesn’t matter so much if I don’t make money in them.’
In keeping with the trend South African players seem to be following in eyeing up foreign playing opportunities, Greene is looking at perhaps playing at the Asian Tour or European Tour qualifying schools.
He was able to have a close-up look at Asian conditions, thanks to a stint on the bag of good friend Justin Harding. ‘I caddied for Justin at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and in Kuala Lumpur two weeks before that,’ he says.
‘Clearly, Justin’s success in Asia has opened a lot of South Africans’ eyes to the possible success available if we choose that route, but the biggest takeaway for me was spending time watching Dustin Johnson – along with the other world-class players. He is so chilled. He will hit a bad shot – not too many, mind you – and just walk on to his ball to get ready for his next shot. And I thought I was laid-back,’ he laughs.
So, with the loss at Humewood in 2010 in the rear-view mirror, and the one at Eye of Africa seemingly in perspective, it seems reasonable to assume a breakthrough is not too far off for Greene. ‘It’s something I can go after with more confidence now,’ he says.
He’s not going to put his head on a block and say where it will come, but it seems likely it will be at a coastal course. ‘I normally play well at the coast,’ he says. ‘When I played the interprovincial as an amateur, it was in Durban. I’ve played a lot of golf in Durban in the wind, and I find I play well at places like Fancourt and St Francis Links.
‘But there’s one thing I can say for sure: once that first trophy comes, there will be a few more to follow.’
14 – Most consecutive cuts Greene has made in his career on the Sunshine Tour
16 – Top-10 finishes he has recorded on the Sunshine Tour
62 – The lowest score he has shot at a tournament, at the Vodacom Business at Humewood in 2010
R2.3m – The amount, in rands, he has earned in his Sunshine Tour career
– This article first appeared in the March issue of Compleat Golfer