Being on the Challenge Tour this year has been tough.
There’s not a lot of money to be made and your expenses are still extremely high. Because of this, you have to have some good travel buddies, both to help cut costs, but also to make time away from the course that much easier.
Going into the season, though, I didn’t really know any of the boys on the Challenge Tour, apart from my usual travel buddy Wilco Nienaber, who only played a few events. But with that came the opportunity to forge some new friendships. And my new buddies became JJ Senekal and Jaco Prinsloo.
I’d obviously seen the boys over the years at the co-sanctioned events but in all honesty, I’d never chatted to them beyond the casual greeting.
With them having the tremendous success that they did at the Challenge Tour co-sanctioned events, it allowed them to play the season further in Europe. And this is where it all began for us.
Our first week together was in Italy, and we got on like a house on fire. Plenty of banter and laughs were to be had every evening. And I won’t lie, I felt somewhat disappointed in myself. Why didn’t I get to know these guys before? They’re such great guys. It made me realise that sometimes I was so caught up in my own world that I simply overlooked the personal aspect of the Sunshine Tour boys. I’ve always said that we have great players. But, I never knew what good people they were, too.
It was too funny watching JJ and Jaco arrange travel. They’d never been to Europe, so they had no clue where to stay or even how to get there. So we laughed about it all, sat around a table and chatted about how Europe works. We chatted about which weeks are easy to organise, and which are a nightmare.
It sent me on an instant flashback to when I started travelling a decade ago. But it was also so refreshing to see their perspective of Europe, so much of which I had either forgotten or taken for granted.
It’s definitely something I wasn’t seeking out this year, but I’ve been very fortunate to make a few new travel buddies, while also getting to know guys like Casey Jarvis, Dylan Mostert and Benjamin Follett-Smith. They were guys I knew about, but didn’t know.
And I can definitely say that the future of South African golf is looking bright as ever. Further proving that the Sunshine Tour truly builds some incredible talents. After all … ‘It Begins Here’.
– This column first appeared in the October 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images