Du Preez celebrates memorable comeback in Southern Cape

Former world number one Tiger Woods has been out of action since early February with a back injury. Some speculate that the lay-off is just another excuse to tinker with his swing before the Masters, but surprisingly, back injuries are the reason more than 50% professional golfers tstop competing.

Lanky James du Preez stands six foot eight (2.06m) in his socks and growth spurts had given him a fair shake of back injuries in the last couple of years.

The promising Gauteng North amateur does not want to be one of the statistics, though.

“Back problems are often ignored and players just play through the pain,” Du Preez said. “I chose to tackle the issues now to extend my career, even if it meant time away from the game.”

The latest problem – the degeneration of two vertebrae – kept Du Preez out of competitive golf for five weeks. It also meant missing the Free State Open, the Sanlam SA Amateur, the Northern Amateur and his title defence in the North West Open.

“It’s only when you lose the ability to play that you can really appreciate what a gift it is to be competing again,” said Du Preez, who celebrated his competitive return with a five stroke victory in the Sanlam Cape Province Open on Sunday.

A couple of bogeys don’t seem to matter that much when you have two eagles and six birdies on your card, but the eight-under-par 64 that carried Du Preez to the winner’s circle paled in comparison to the 19-year-old’s undiluted joy at competing again.

“A year ago, I just had to win, no matter the cost, but after the four month stint in the United States and having had to sit on the bench again, I have a different perspective,” Du Preez said.

“I am having fun and I am enjoying the privilege of competing again. I don’t force things anymore; I just let it happen and it’s a much better mind set for me. That is why this victory means so much to me.”

The Pretoria Country Club player navigated wet weather conditions at George Golf Club to open with a 73 and put himself in contention with a superb 65 in the second round at Kingswood Golf Estate.

“That 65 was probably one of my best ball striking round in years,” Du Preez said. “My rhythm was too quick in third round at George Golf Club, though. I carded a 72, but from the first tee shot in the final round the rhythm was perfect. I knew it could be another low one.”

After a birdie-eagle start in the final round of, Du Preez bungled a tee shot at the third.

He walked off with a bogey, but the blunder did little to detract from round. He just kept plugging away, notching further birdies at the fourth, eighth, 10th and 11th.

Even when he short-sided himself for another drop at the 13th, he responded by holing a six-footer for eagle at the par-five 14th and chipped to give at the 16th for birdie number six.

Du Preez certainly punctured the excitement among the local fans when he defeated Southern Cape’s Cameron Moralee to triumph on 14-under-par 274.

“I was just hoping to test my back and to try to play the full 72 holes, but it turned out much better than any of us anticipated,” the Gauteng North amateur said.

“This win is definitely down to the team at TuksSport Golf Academy. My coach, Llewelyn van Leeuwen, spent hours with me to change my swing so that my body works through impact while protecting my back. I don’t know if I would be playing at all if it wasn’t for Gavin Groves, the biokineticist, and Andri Smuts, the physiotherapist, at the HPC. They worked non-stop to help me adjust and to build my muscles to support my back.”
Du Preez said sport psychologist Theo Bezuidenhout also made a huge difference to his attitude and his approach to the game.

“You can be strong physically, but if your mental approach lets you down, you have no chance of succeeding,” he said.

“Theo has given me great tools to get me through the tough spots. When you force things, you make mistakes. You can’t run around chasing victories; you can only try to hit your best shot every time and let the score take care of itself.”

274 James du Preez 73 65 72 64
279 Cameron Moralee 75 68 70 66
280 Teaghan Gauche 73 67 70 70
281 Jade Buitendag 71 71 70 69
283 Luca Filippi 72 70 70 71; Ian Snyman 69 70 71 73
284 Andi Dill 72 71 71 70
286 Nicholas Mitchell 73 71 71 71; Keagan Thomas 72 72 70 72; Sean Bradley 71 73 69 73
287 Herman Loubser 75 70 72 70; Kyle McClatchie 69 73 72 73
288 Basil Wright 76 71 69 72; Luke Trocado 73 72 74 69; Tom Watson 68 75 74 71; Michael Sherriff 68 69 72 79
289 Ivan Williams 76 69 73 71
290 Marco Steyn 75 74 70 71; Daniel Mantel 75 70 70 75
291 Darin de Smidt 73 72 77 69

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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