While he might be remembered in 2021 for how close he came to winning the South African Open Championship at Sun City, in truth Oliver Bekker’s crowning achievement of the year was the way in which he played his way on to the DP World Tour.
Without a win in the Sunshine Tour since August 2017, and with a young family demanding more and more of his attention as he headed towards turning 37 on December 11, Bekker made what was essentially a Hail Mary move as he headed for Europe and the Challenge Tour in an attempt to get on to the bigger European Stage where his seven Sunshine Tour titles suggested he belonged.
His share of second after a play-off loss in the Limpopo Championship and of third behind Wilco Nienaber in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, both of which were co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour, gave him the springboard he needed to wage a successful campaign.
Although he went winless, he did pull off four more top 10s during the season, most significantly his seventh place in the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by the R&A in November. That performance saw him finish seventh on the Challenge Tour rankings, after a 20-tournament season which saw him be away from home on a tough tour in strange conditions for nearly seven months.
It was a season of consistency as he exhibited all the patience that has come to characterise his career, and that cerebral approach will stand him in good stead as the DP World Tour kicks back into action from January.
There will be the added incentive of the two new co-sanctioned tournaments with the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour being played on home soil for Bekker to show off his skills in front of home fans at the Pecanwood Classic and the Steyn City Championship in March.
One of the enduring images from the South African Open was Bekker standing beside the 18th green at the Gary Player Country Club as Daniel van Tonder made the closing birdie that broke Bekker’s heart. It’s that generosity of spirit that makes Bekker such an engaging character.
His solidity overseas might not have been matched by the three top-three finishes by Louis Oosthuizen in major championships this year, or by the wins by Van Tonder, Justin Harding, Dean Burmester, Erik van Rooyen and Garrick Higgo, but for grit and finding something that was consequential for his personal future, not much matched Bekker in 2022.