Compleat Golfer’s playing editor BRANDON STONE reflects on the year that was and prefers to take the glass half full approach.
No one could have scripted a year ago what we were going to be facing in 2020. It’s pointless sugar-coating what we went through, as a whole. The year was a once-in-a-generation experience and changed the lives of so many around the world, for the worse for a large chunk of those people.
I can only speak about my personal experiences and what 2020 brought. This time last year I had set out my goals starting last January and when I think back how everything changed as the year unfolded due to circumstance it’s incredible.
At the start of 2020 I said I’d like to compete and find more consistency with my game. I got that, and at the end of February, beginning of March I was beaten in a playoff by Sami Valimaki at the Oman Open. The following week I played in Qatar and then the Covid-19 pandemic struck and it was over four months until I teed up at tournament again, at the British Masters at the end of July.
Despite the lockdowns and disruption, I actually had more top-10s this season than in any of my previous seasons on the European Tour. Apart from Oman, I had top-10s at the English Championship and Joburg Open. I also had three top-20s before lockdown and then another five top-20s after the Tour resumed. Obviously, the only thing missing is a victory but as a whole I feel I dealt with 2020 surprisingly well.
But it was a difficult time or me because I am a social person at heart, so being rooted to my hotel room was frustrating, but necessary. Also, we were in these situations where my wife couldn’t travel with me, neither could my trainer Gavin Gavin Groves. In fact, I couldn’t travel with my support staff as a whole, which I found exceptionally difficult.
So, to have had the season I’ve had and with all those extra sideshows and variables thrown into the equation, overall I’m very proud of myself.
When I look at 2020 from outside my personal space, I think that despite the year we were subjected to, South African golf and its golfers have come out smelling like roses.
You look back at the emergence of the likes of Wilco (Nienaber), Jayden (Schaper) and Garrick (Higgo) and you can see there are so many young players coming on to the European Tour and having an immediate impact. It’s proof that even though 2020 might be not one of the favourite years for many reasons, it still provided an opportunity for those up-and-coming players to prove themselves on the big stage.
Garrick is a prime example with his win at the Open de Portugal in September. More experienced guys like Branden Grace, George Coetzee and Christiaan Bezuidenhout also banked European Tour victories over the course of the season, which was the most successful for South Africans on that Tour since 2017 when I also won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
If I reflect on 2020 as a whole it might have been challenging and bad at times, but it gave myself and my wife a lot of positives – and even provided new opportunities for South Africans this summer.
The African Swing in late November and December would never have been on the cards, but it was absolutely exceptional and to have it here for three weeks leading up to Dubai I think that has to be the takeaway feel-good element for 2020. Despite the adversity we pulled through and came out stronger.
You have to adopt a positive outlook. You have to go in there feeling optimistic and you can’t let Covid-19 affect your life more than it has or did. We’re at a point where we’ve come to a fork in the road. You can either learn and grow from it or let it define you. And me being Brandon Stone I will not let a pandemic define my existence.
This season was one of my best and it’s no small achievement all things considering, but it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication from me and my team. Therefore we’re all exceptionally excited to see what 2021 has in store for us.