When 21-year-old Jared du Toit of Kimberley set foot on the Glenn Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ontario last week, there were a lot of things on his mind. Winning the Canadian Open, his first-ever Professional Golf Association event, wasnt one of them.
The goal was never really to win the tournament, he said. Obviously that would have been the dream, but I tried not to think about that as much as possible.
It was the feeling of being starstruck that many experience when meeting childhood idols for the first time that impressed him at first. Jason Day the world number one ranked golfer was there. Dustin Johnson the world number two-ranked golfer was there. Jareds name was just one among a number of giants within the sport. Until, that is, it wasnt.
It didnt take long for people to begin familiarizing himself with the name Jared du Toit. In just six holes, he was already a remarkable 4 under par and was pushing some of his heroes like Johnson to the top of the leaderboard. By the end of the first round, his 67 shot, 5-under-par performance had him at the top of highlight shows across the country as the collective golfing nation asked, Who is this kid?
The following day he proved he was no fluke, firing a 1-under-par 71 to stay amongst the leaders before cementing his name with a third-round 70 shot performance as one of the 156 in competition to be put in the final pairing with Brandt Snedeker competing to win the Canadian Open. Still, he tried not to focus on it.
I just tried to focus on playing good solid golf, and I knew if I took care of business and stopped thinking all these thoughts and extra expectations that came with the week, that I thought I could play well and contend with the guys, he said.
With the pressure on and the country watching, his coach Derek Ingram tried to redirect that nervous energy.
One of the things we talked about just what a privilege it is to have the pressure that youre going to have and to not look at it as a negative thing and be thankful that you have that privilege to be nervous, he said. Its extremely hard work and frustrating and you do that so you get the privilege to have the pressure so when youre in those situations, you better enjoy it and you better love it.
Unfortunately, it would be for naught as du Toit was unable to reclaim that magic in the final round on Sunday, finishing 1-under-par on the day with a score of 9-under-par that left him within three shots of tournament winner Jhonattan Vegas.
While Jareds performance surprised many through Canada and within the sport, local golfer Tryg Strand, who competed against Jared across the Columbia Valley golf courses at the high school level, said he saw the elite level golfer within Jared long before last weekend.
Back then, you knew he was going to be a player because he was calm, collected and didnt really lose his temper whereas with other guys when youre that young of a golfer its not easy to have the mental game down, but he had it down quite early, Tryg told The Pioneer.
The day after his closing round Sunday, Jared said he still wasnt able to catch up to the thousands of phone calls, text messages and social media followers he gained on his near-historic weekend.
After competing at the Porter Cup this weekend (July 27th to 30th) and the Canadian Amateur tournament later this month, he will go south to Arizona State University where hes studying marketing while competing in the NCAA.
There, Jared will be able to digest the weekend in Oakville, Ontario, remembering the time he competed with Dustin Johnson and almost had to turn down $1 million as an amateur golfer; remembering the time he became more than just a name amongst the crowd.