Young Sunshine Tour professional Tristen Strydom is tied for the lead with the experienced George Coetzee going into the final round of the Titleist Championship at Pretoria Country Club. Credit: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour.
Tiger Woods is an obvious hero for any young golfer. But for Tristen Strydom, the golfer he looks up to is the man he'll play alongside in the final group on Friday as he and George Coetzee tee off tied for the lead of the Titleist Championship at Pretoria Country Club.
"It's going to be a dream come true to play alongside George in the final round," said Strydom, whose 65 on Thursday lifted him into a share of the lead with Coetzee, who signed for a 70, on seven under par. And they're four strokes clear of the rest of the field.
It's certainly a special moment for Strydom, who won the Sunshine Tour's Qualifying School in March and is now chasing his maiden victory on the Tour. But win or lose on Friday, Strydom is determined to savour this moment.
"You know, growing up and playing golf here at Pretoria Country Club as a boy, I always followed George and looked up to him. I've always admired him. To play with him in the final group on the final day will be so lekker."
This is Strydom's second season on Tour, and already he says he feels he's gained so much experience which he hopes will carry him through the nerves of being in contention in a final round.
The eight birdies – starting with a 20-foot putt on the first – , one eagle, one bogey and a double bogey on Thursday will tell you one part of the story of Strydom's journey to this point. But the hours he spent as a young boy chipping and putting around the Pretoria Country Club practice area until the sun set, working his way through the ranks as a top amateur, turning professional and then realising the real hard work had only begun, tells the other story of just why Friday's final round with Coetzee is such a big moment for him.
"It's an opportunity, and I'm very excited. Win or lose, I'm just trying to play good golf and enjoy myself. You know, my first year on Tour last year was a big learning curve. The other golfers out here are really good. People don't always realise that. Everybody out here works hard and wants it just as badly as I want it. So the biggest thing I've learnt is patience. Out here, every shot counts. It's a whole different world to amateur golf. Learning to accept the good and bad breaks out here is important."
Now Strydom has the opportunity to gain the one thing that could be even more important to him than even a victory on Friday. Playing alongside his golf hero and having worked his way into a share of the lead in a Sunshine Tour event, Strydom will know he has what it takes. And now he gets the chance to further measure himself against a multiple European Tour champion.
And that is a lekker feeling indeed.