Sean Bradley (21) has turned professional on the back of a remarkable streak of recent amateur victories, and will be playing his first tournament for money in the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open presented by Sun International when it gets underway on Thursday on his home course at Royal Cape Golf Club.
Bradley, son of Wayne Bradley who had five wins on the Sunshine Tour in a career that began in 1986, will tee it up on the strength of a sponsor’s invitation into the R1.5-million event at the start of a new phase in his playing life. ‘It’s been a long dream – six years now,’ he said.
‘This year, I’ve seen things fall into place, I’ve been playing better golf and I’m now ready to take it to the next level. After I was injured and took two months off, I came back, and lost by one in each of the first two tournaments I played. So I upped the work rate and I won the last four I played in. There was pressure in my last one, here at Royal Cape. I’d already broken a record by winning three, and I knew to win at my home club would get me into this event – there were a lot of expectations from other people and I felt that, but my expectations stay the same.’
Like any young golfer, his own expectations are high, but they are tempered with the knowledge that he’s done the work to justify them. ‘Before, I used to think putting in five hours a day was enough,’ he said. ‘During my off time, I read The Big Miss, Hank Haney’s book on Tiger Woods, and I decided to restructure my practice schedule based on his. That was a drastic change. It was quite tough on my back to start with, when I went from five hours to almost 12 a day. But if I’m fit and healthy, my golf gets 100 per cent better week-in week-out – there’s a lot more progress quicker than I saw before.’
And his father, the South African PGA Coach of the Year in 2010, is as impressed as anyone with the work his son has done. ‘The guy is unbelievably dedicated, and positive,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day, every major winner thinks they were going to be a major winner when they were young. He definitely believes it. His work ethic is phenomenal – he just says he’s going to outwork everybody.’
Turning professional is always something of a risk, especially ahead of the qualifying school events which give aspiring youngsters the chance to earn a card, or playing status, on the tour. But young Bradley has thought all of that stuff through carefully. ‘I feel like I’m destined to be a professional golfer and I got myself to a level where I feel I can compete,’ he said. ‘So it made sense to turn pro. If my dad had a successful career, I feel I have a chance to take it up a level with all his knowledge that he’s given me and all my knowledge.’
His father had a successful sojourn on the Asian Tour, and the youngster is looking in that direction too. ‘I’m going to do both the Asian Tour QSchool and Sunshine Tour QSchool,’ he said. ‘I feel like two cards are always better than one. I want to move away from the family a bit. It will give me a chance to mature as a person and grow up.’
Of what could be a nerve-wracking professional debut, he says: ‘I’m just looking forward to being a professional golfer. I want to experience having the crowds there and I want to be playing for more than I have been playing for up until now. First thing is to try and make the cut, and then to try and be the best I can be. I would say I know this course better than anyone in the field, and if I have a good week, I hope I can be holding a trophy at the end of the week.
‘The people who have been in my life for the last three months know how good I am – this is a chance for me to prove to myself what I can do under more pressure and in a bigger field,’ he added.