Haydn Porteous said his mother Belinda always told him to sound confident but not be arrogant, and the 21-year-old heeded her advice both on and off the course, leading to a life-changing victory in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday.
Porteous claimed his maiden European Tour victory as he shot a rock-solid 69 on the final day to beat Zander Lombard, also a former South African amateur star, by two strokes. The measure of how well he played was that he hit all 18 greens in regulation, an astonishing achievement, but a cold putter made life difficult for Porteous as he only collected three birdies.
Coming a week after Brandon Stone’s triumph at the South African Open, Porteous’s victory just reinforced the feeling that the new generation of local golf stars has arrived.
But the Johannesburg-born golfer acknowledged that Stone’s win had also been the catalyst for him to take a good look at how he was approaching his golf.
“My mother always says that I must sound confident but not be arrogant, and there is a hint of arrogance in me. I needed to get into the right frame of mind, I knew I could practise more and gym harder. If you know you’re doing the right things, then your confidence increases.
“Brandon’s win gave me a big kick in the arse, he’s been doing all the right things, while I was not. It was very motivational and inspirational to see him win and I knew I couldn’t carry on the way I was. I definitely played more conservatively this week and I had a good game plan, just aiming for the middle of the green all the time,” Porteous said.
While golfers of lesser composure would have been tearing their hair out after all those missed putts, Stone and Lombard’s 2012 Eisenhower Trophy team-mate remained philosophical.
“I hit the ball incredibly all day, I missed a few fairways but not by much, and I really found my groove with my irons, especially on the back nine where I really flushed them. But every day is different and I putted well in the third round. Maybe I didn’t see the lines today, maybe I was reading too much into them, but 69 is not a terrible score,” Porteous said.
Lombard had a two-shot lead after six holes after two birdies, but a frustrating three-putt on the ninth and two further bogeys on the 11th and 14th holes saw him slip back. In the end, he had to birdie the last to sneak into second on 16-under and qualify, alongside Porteous, for the Open Championship, by a hair’s breadth, the day before he turns 21.
Englishman Anthony Wall claimed the third qualifying spot for the Open by virtue of his superior world ranking, after a frustrating level-par 72 left him in third place on 15-under tied with Sweden’s Bjorn Akesson, South African Justin Walters and Daniel Im of America.