Makhetha Mazibuko was a happy man on Sunday following his excellent display at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship where he tied for second following a nerve-wracking playoff with Erik van Rooyen and Dylan Frittelli.
He came agonisingly close to pulling off what would have been an amazing victory. A product of the SA Golf Development Board’s efforts in the Free State, and then of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, and latterly the Sunshine Tour’s Gary Player Class of 2017 initiative, his game withstood the rigours of the week as he announced himself as someone sure to break through soon.
He was nicknamed ‘The Original PlayStation’ by the visiting Scots when he made six birdies in a row against them at the age of 17 as an amateur. He is originally from Phuthadijhaba near Golden Gate in the Free State and he grew up in a hut next to a field, where he and friends hit balls and cut holes into the ground.
After an impressive four days of golf in which he seemed to be on his way to a maiden victory on the Sunshine Tour, 29-year old Mazibuko had to settle for second behind Van Rooyen after he bogeyed the play-off hole, having finished the tournament at 16-under-par 272.
‘I am very happy with myself, with how I played this week,’ he said, ‘but at the same time I must congratulate Erik. He deserved to win because he played a nice shot in that play-off hole,’ Mazibuko mused.
Three birdies and a bogey on the front nine and then the same dose on the back nine in regulation play saw him summit the leaderboard momentarily before Van Rooyen and Frittelli caught up with him. It caused a great deal of excitement among those who came to watch, as they realised they were in for a spectacle.
‘This one was close so I am happy with how I played my game,’ he said. ‘I had to be calm. I want to thank all the people who supported me for this; after this I go to the next tournament with good confidence. I also want to thank my coach from Bloemfontein because he helped a lot this week.’
Now, a member of Gary Player Class of 2017 developmental programme of the Sunshine Tour for previously disadvantaged golfers, Mazibuko’s performance stands as testimony that with proper support and structure, everybody has potential to reach the highest level.
‘As I said in the week, the support we get in this programme is amazing and I want to thank the Sunshine Tour,’ he said. ‘And I want to say to the other guys in that programme they must continue to work hard and results will show.’
After his performance this week, Mazibuko has raised his profile and will become a force to be reckoned with in the local professional circuit.