subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now
Yurav Premlall. Picture: TWITTER
Yurav Premlall. Picture: TWITTER

SA’s No 1-ranked amateur joined the paid ranks last week, teeing it up as a professional for the first time in the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

For 19-year-old Yurav Premlall, the timing wasn’t perfect. But to be fair, it rarely is regarding talented youngsters and that lure of the big-time promised land.

Premlall had just been called up to represent SA for the first time and was a shoo-in for the next GolfRSA National Squad Tour to the UK in June.

I think another six months in the amateur ranks, including the three big SA events and the UK trip, would have padded an already impressive golfing CV and given him some more valuable experience. Yet the chance to play in the co-sanctioned Challenge Tour and Sunshine Tour events, which pay in euros, was a very enticing offer, and at this stage in his career, probably too good an opportunity to turn down.

I don’t doubt Premlall’s ability. He is a brilliant golfer, a highly marketable player and a downright good human being. I also don’t blame him for giving it a go. A couple of good results early on and he would be off to a fast start in his professional career, using the power of Challenge Tour currency to leap up the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit and, possibly, avoid having to go to Q-School.

Boy did he get off to a fast start. After a fine opening round of 69, Premlall fired another three birdies on the opening nine of his second-round to get into the top five. But golf has a way of bringing us back down to earth quickly. Premlall limped home across Royal Cape’s front nine in 42 shots to barely scrape through the cut to play on the weekend. I suspect that, once he started unravelling, he stopped playing the fearless golf that got him into a strong position off the bat and started looking nervously at the cut line.

Pay cheque

Cut-watching is a dangerous trap to fall into. In my 25 years in the game, I’ve seen so many rookies get hung up on the cut, especially regarding the bigger purses on offer.

In the amateur game, there is no big pay cheque waiting at the end of a tournament, but it’s the most natural worry to have once you join the pro ranks. The consequences of walking away without some ching in the bank when your livelihood depends on it can become an obstacle many youngsters battle to overcome.

Premlall’s former teammate in the GolfRSA national squad, Luca Filippi, knows this trap well enough.

“When I turned pro two years ago, I used to be very aware of where the cutline was all the time,” he says. “I’d start the tournament aiming to make the cut — and when I was close to it, I’d start worrying about making enough money to cover my costs.

“For most of my rookie season I was riding the cutline. It became a big hurdle for me, but it also taught me a lot about myself. I learnt what my body does under the pressure of needing to make pars or birdies down the final stretch to make the cut.”

After a strange, Covid-19-affected rookie season, Filippi ended his first full season 48th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. This year he ranks 29th and his steady improvement year on year is a familiar trend when it comes to those transitioning to the paid ranks.

“The difference is that now when I tee it up, I’m playing to win,” he says. “Maybe if I’m having a poor week, I’ll try to stay focused by aiming to make the cut and then pushing on during the weekend, but generally I’m not even looking at the cutline now.”

Shot up

Yet making the cut in one of the co-sanctioned events really is a big deal. For example, in coming 76th — stone last out of the players to make the cut in the Bain’s Whiskey Cape Town Open — Nikhil Rama pocketed R22,135. That’s more than what he earned for his 13th-place finish in the Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge in September.

For Martin Vorster, another recent squad graduate from the GolfRSA National squad, the week has placed a ribbon around his season. Vorster finished tie-fourth and bagged more than R200,000 for his efforts. It’s great money, but arguably more important is that the youngster has shot up the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit to 37th place and is tied third on the Challenge Tour’s Race to Oman.

This opens many doors for him, such as automatic entry into the DP World Tour co-sanctioned events, where the money on offer and pressure to succeed is even greater.

In the end, Premlall signed for a tournament total of 4 under par for a share of 44th place and with it, got a tidy deposit just shy of R40,000 into his brand-new pro bank account. Hopefully, he will be able to add to it in this week’s Dimension Data Pro Am.

Dylan Naidoo is another former national squad player who has impressed since turning pro, including a maiden Sunshine Tour title last year. Yet he too had to learn to manage the pressure of playing in big events.

“There is definitely more pressure to perform,” Naidoo says. “That there are more rewards can play on your mind and when I first started on tour I was very conscious of it.

“The way I’ve had to get my head around it is to ensure my preparation stays exactly the same for every tournament I play, whether it’s a Big Easy Tour event or a DP World Tour event.”

That sounds like sound advice for young Premlall as he embarks on a professional career that will undoubtedly have many ups and downs.

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.