24th December 2014 | IGT Challenge Tour
RISING STAR – ROSSWELL SINCLAIR
The 17-year-old Centurion golfer made an impression at the Sanlam SA Amateur Champions when he claimed second in the Stroke Play Qualifier at Hermanus Golf Club, finishing a stroke behind Southern Cape’s Jovan Rebula.
Sinclair put an exclamation mark on his blossoming potential with a fourth place finish in the Nomads SA Boys U-17 Championship at Polokwane Golf Club in July, where he fired a final round 68 to finish five strokes behind the winner, Dylan Naidoo from Modderfontein Golf Club.
He claimed Gauteng North Golf Union’s top junior award by edging out another rising star, JP Cooper, with five victories and a runner-up finish on the union’s junior circuit.
This season, he rose to fourth in the South African Golf Association’s U-17 Rankings and 17th in the Overall Junior Rankings. He also climbed to 63rd in the Open Amateur standings and one of his goals for 2015 is to break into the top 20.
Sinclair represented Gauteng North at the SA U-23 Inter-Provincial, the SA U-19 IPT and the Challenge Cup Teams Tournament and also began campaigning on the IGT Tour to gain more experience.
In addition to breaking into the top 20 on the Order of Merit of the country’s premier development Tour, Sinclair finished an impressive ninth in the standings after the nine-event Race to Q-School Order, notching two top 10 and three top five finishes, including joint second in the final event at Wingate Park Country Club in November.
He has had his sights firmly set on a career in golf since the age of nine.
“I knew I wanted to be a pro from the first time I started competing,” he said. “I just love being out on the golf course and nothing else gives me greater pleasure. I’m at my happiest when I’m competing and I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
We chatted to Sinclair during the Joburg Junior Open to find out more about the accomplished pianist and straight-A student, who speaks fluent English and Polish.
Q: You started to transition to the South African Golf Association’s Open Amateur circuit this year. What has the experience been like?
RS: I am really enjoying the new challenges the Open circuit brings. At the beginning, I definitely felt more pressure because now you are competing against all the top guys in the country.
My coach, Graeme Francis, at GFG Academy is a former touring pro and he has given me great support and advice, especially on the mental side of things. It look a little time, but I made a lot of friends and that helped me to settle in. Now I just really enjoy it and I look forward to every event. It’s great to see how you gain confidence and improve along the way.
Q: How did you get into the game and who inspires you?
RS: My dad and my brother both played golf and I started to tag along to the golf course when I was about four years old. They would let me hit a ball here and there and I just loved it. I began seeing a coach when I turned nine and I’ve been competing ever since.
Q: You are a straight A-student, but how do you balance golf with your school work?
RS: My parents decided early on to take me out of regular school, so that I could have more time to work on my golf. I am home-schooled and we work around a schedule that allows me enough time to see my coach and play golf. The school couldn’t accommodate me with playing in tournaments. I don’t procrastinate with homework and stuff, because I want to make good grades. I want to play college golf in the United States, so right now we are working towards finishing matric early next year. I will need to sit the American SATS exam in the middle of the year, so I can get into college in August next year.
Q: You say you are a goal orientated player, but you also say golf is a process. Can you explain?
RS: I set myself goals, like bringing down my stroke average to a certain level in a season, or winning a certain amount of events. You can’t run before you walk. You have to put in the work every step of the way and progress that way. We all want to be the next Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, but they are the exception to the rule. Most professionals have to grind their way to the top and the sooner you understand that, the easier it becomes to set and achieve small goals and constantly improve.
For example, last year I lost out on the Gauteng North Junior Player of the Year award to Keegan de Lange, so I made that a goal this year and I’ve ticked that box. If JP had won, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, though. You have to accept that there will be disappointments along the way.
Q: You’ve had a bit of success in the United States, too, I’ve been told
RS: My dad is American and all our family are based in the United States, so we visit there quite often. I always try and play some tournaments on the USGA Junior Circuit when we go over. In 2009, I played the Callaway Junior World Championships and the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship for the first time. I played them both over the last three years and I also played the US Kids Junior International in Carolina in 2011.
The Optimist is played at the PGA National Resort and Spa in Florida and that’s not too far from our house over there. I just love that tournament. I finished ninth in 2009, third in 2012 and fourth in 2014.
Q: Can you tell us your best and worst golfing moments?
RS: Ha-ha…it came in the same tournament. In 2012, I had a two shot lead going into the final round of the Optimist and I made a hole-in-one at the 15th at the PGA National. You know, at the start of the Bear Trap. That was the greatest moment of my career. It also started the worst. I went triple bogey, double bogey at the next two holes for a 74 to finish third.
Q: You have made a real impression on the IGT Tour, especially over the last two months. What is the reason for your success?
RS: I really think it comes down to number of hours of practice and number of rounds of golf I play, but also that I’m growing in confidence. I am gaining more experience and I don’t feel intimidated by the top amateurs and the pros anymore. Like I said, golf is a process and when you come from the junior ranks, it can be pretty intimidating lining up with guys like Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Zander Lombard, NJ Arnoldi and Gerlou Roux, who has been playing for more than 25 years.
The IGT Tour helped me to get over that mental hurdle and I’m hoping that I can take the experience and the confidence into the SAGA season next year and start posting some top 10 finishes in the national events. I would really like to break into the top 20 on the national rankings.
Q: What advice would you give youngsters just taking up the game?
RS: They should work really hard at their game, but they should never forget to have fun out there. It’s so important that you have a good balance between being competitive, but also enjoying what you are doing.
Q: Who would you like to play a round of golf with, given the chance?
RS: I would love to play with Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson. I just love Ernie’s easy swing. It’s nothing like mine, but I can’t help to admire it. I love Rory’s demeanour on the golf course and the way he stays calm and focussed and I just love Bubba’s out of the box way of playing. He is incredibly imaginative and you never know what he will come up with next.
Q: Should be a lot of fun, considering you are one of the longest hitters in the amateur game at the moment.
RS: I can hit my driver 360 meters up in Gauteng, so yes, I’m a pretty long hitter. But you know, it doesn’t matter how long you can drive it if you can’t do anything with the advantage. That’s why I work twice as hard at my short game. You don’t score off the tees, you score on the greens.
Q: What’s still on the bucket list for you?
RS: I want to turn pro and win Majors, obviously, but I would love to get on a Harley Davidson and ride Route 66 from one end to the other…that has to be the ultimate “living the dream” experience.