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Collin Morikawa celebrates after his putt on the 18th hole as he wins The Open to become champion, at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, July 18 2021. Picture: CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES
Collin Morikawa celebrates after his putt on the 18th hole as he wins The Open to become champion, at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, July 18 2021. Picture: CHRIS TROTMAN/GETTY IMAGES

In many ways, golfer Collin Morikawa and jockey Lyle Hewitson are very much alike. Both are at the top of their game in their mid-twenties — the former is 24 years old and the latter reaches that age in October.    

After his Open Championship win last Sunday, several writers asked whether US-based Morikawa was the next Tiger Woods. Similarly, one could ask whether Hewitson is the next Muis Roberts, the 10-time SA champion.

In dealing with the media, which comes with sporting fame, both get top marks. Morikawa looked almost shy as he peeped from under his cap at the applauding crowd walking to the 18th green on Sunday. Previous winners have often celebrated like a Premier League footballer scoring a goal.

In the post-tournament interviews at Royal St George’s, Morikawa was polite and courteous. “This is by far one of the best moments of my life.”

The first man to win the Open and the PGA Championship at the first attempt added: “You guys have been amazing. I’m obviously very biased, being from the US, but these are some of the best crowds I’ve ever seen.”

Yes, it would have been an unforgettable walk up the final fairway — something Gary Player experienced when winning three Open championships. Player first got his hands on the Claret Jug at a similar age (23) when he won at Muirfield in 1959.

Hewitson is also good with the media. “I interview a lot of jockeys in a year and it is just a pleasure to talk to Lyle and reigning champion Warren Kennedy,” says Tellytrack presenter Lyall Cooper, a former golfing coach.

Hewitson’s easy demeanour is probably down to his parents insisting that he attend a top school in KwaZulu-Natal before embarking on a career in racing. The decision has reaped a handsome dividend.

Morikawa, in turn, has enjoyed a good education and is a graduate of the University of California.

On Sunday, August 1, Hewitson will wake up to be the champion jockey of SA for the third time. His total of about 250 winners will easily eclipse his previous best tally of 219 in the 2018/2019 season.

Yet he will not look back on the past 12 months with the same fondness as Morikawa. While his tally of wins is impressive, he failed to win any of racing’s four majors — the July, Met, Summer Cup or Queen’s Plate.

Just as Ryan Moore is a vital cog in Aidan O’Brien’s stable, Hewitson is similarly important to champion trainer Sean Tarry. The difference being that Moore has a lucrative contract while that is believed not to be the case with SA’s top jockey.

Tarry will surrender his title to Justin Snaith after the meeting at Hollywoodbets Greyville on July 31 and this is because his Randjesfontein yard hasn’t had the same top horses as his rival this term.

The similarity between Morikawa and Hewitson ends when discussing their finances. The gross prize money for the Open championship was £11m — if Hewitson wins the Marshalls World Of Sport Gold Cup on Nebraas (which seems very possible), he will receive about R60,000 (£3,000).

No question that the Gold Cup gives the Tarry-Hewitson partnership a good chance of ending the 2020/2021 season on a high. Four-year-old Nebraas justified some strong support for the Gold Vase on July day and he didn’t disappoint his backers with his decisive win.

This writer does have one long shot for the Gold Cup who could give the favourite a run for his money, but more about that nearer the time.

Nevertheless, it is hardly surprising that the son of Vercingetorix heads the Gold Cup market. He has  proved he has no stamina limitations, which is understandable being out of a mare by Archipenko.

Probably the one worry about Nebraas is that he was beaten by five lengths by the Lucky Houdalakis inmate Trend Master at the Vaal in May. That winner is a decent sort but would probably fall into the decent handicapper category.

Sponsors will now be queuing up to be linked with new golf star Morikawa. In comparison, Hewitson will be receiving pocket money from his backers.

The burning question for Hewitson is whether he remains in SA or follows in the footsteps of recent departees Luke Ferraris and Callan Murray.

The 23-year-old won’t need reminding about his 140 winnerless rides in Hong Kong, but he enjoyed some success in Japan. However, one feels Australia might be the right destination — a country which loves its racing in the same way South Africans love rugby.


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