If Musiwalo Nethunzwi had any doubts over how important his successful birdie putt on the 18th hole was in the second round of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club on Friday, then they were soon dispelled by the ardent female fan who ran on to the green and embraced him.
Sinking the tricky 10-foot downhill putt, which had a nasty little left-to-right break, completed a round of 71 for Nethunzwi, lifting him to one-under-par for the tournament and ensuring he made the cut, which eventually fell on level-par.
For a Sunshine Tour journeyman like the 28-year-old from Modderfontein Golf Club, making the cut in a lucrative co-sanctioned event is a massive occasion.
To put it into context, Nethunzwi, who has had only one top-10 finish on the local tour in 39 starts, has earned just R29 743,39 this season; last place in the SA Open will earn him R23 950 and could put him into the top-100, which is the cut-off for regaining his card.
Nethunzwi cannot afford a coach but he was all smiles on Friday after his round and especially amused by the memorable acclaim he was given by a spectator at the end of it all.
“I don’t know her, but she clearly loves the sport and she had fun at Glendower today. I saw her from yesterday on my back nine and she said she will still come and watch me today. She was one of the people supporting me and cheering me all through my round today, which really helped me keep the momentum going.
“It means a lot to me to make the cut, I have good memories at Glendower after winning the Big Easy event here in July, and I’ve been working hard on my game and it’s paying off now. I still work on my own, although my friend Sipho Bujela and I help each other by taking videos of each other,” Nethunzwi told The Citizen on Friday.
What is clear from Nethunzwi’s round on Friday is that he has great talent – he collected eight birdies in the second round and on a challenging course like Glendower, that takes some doing.
Although he is a tremendous driver of the ball, one would not say though that he played with military precision off the tee on Friday, and it got him into trouble on the third, sixth, eighth and 10th holes, where he dropped shots. “I hit the Driver very good, so I’m happy, there were a just a few that didn’t go so well. Overall I’m happy that I hit the ball so well,” Nethunzwi said.
The eighth was a massive bomb out as he ended with a triple-bogey eight.
“I put my tee shot in the bunker and I had 205 metres to the flag and I tried to cut a six-iron, but I thinned it into the edge of the bunker and it came back. I then hit an eight-iron and still thinned it, before hitting a wedge out on to the fairway. I then had 182 to the flag and I hit my seven-iron a bit long and then hit a flop shot a bit too hard. But then I one-putted for an eight,” Nethunzwi chuckled, the pain of that hole being forgotten after his joyous finish.
The fact that Nethunzwi still managed to make the cut after being one-over-par through 10 holes speaks to the resilience of the man.
His fight has earned him a big payday this weekend … and at least one ardent supporter.