The last time Ruan de Smidt won on the Sunshine Tour, it was at Humewood in 2016. He returns to the famed links tomorrow searching for anything resembling that kind of form for the Vodacom Origins of Golf event there.
It’s been a horrible season for De Smidt. After making the cut and finishing 27th in the first tournament of the season back in March, he’s missed every single cut in each tournament he’s played in, and he has managed just one round in the 60s, which was the first round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am in May.
This is the man who won the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School back in 2012, and, in his rookie season, he won a thoroughly entertaining battle with Daniel van Tonder to take the Rookie of the Year title with five top-10s and his maiden tour victory in the Suncoast Classic in October that year.
In the 2016-17 season, he had his best year on the Order of Merit, finishing 21st with seven top 10s and wins at the Sun Carnival City Challenge in September 2016, and in the Sun Boardwalk Challenge at Humewood in October that year.
Now, nine years after he set out on his professional career, and five years almost to the day after that Humewood win, his current struggles in many ways reflect just how difficult a life in professional touring golf is, and just how strong the Sunshine Tour is. Gallingly for him, this is all happening while his great friend and rival from his rookie season, Van Tonder, is having his breakthrough year on the international stage with a European Tour victory and major championship appearances giving him the time of his life.
It’s difficult dealing with regaining your game under the harsh glare tournament rounds shine on your shortcomings, and critical observers often don’t know even half of what other personal issues might be making things even harder for someone like De Smidt. But there is no-one who is taking any pleasure in it.
Conversely, there won’t be anyone who would be unhappy if he regains something of his swagger at Humewood this week. And there won’t be a dry eye in the house if he pulls off a miraculous victory.