Sun. Sep 20th, 2020

Justin Harding’s slow and steady progress to the limelight

Justin Harding US MastersJustin Harding is so much more than just golf’s latest flash in the pan.

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A steady three under par first round at the US Masters in Augusta from South Africa’s Justin Harding thrust the Sunshine Tour veteran into the global golf spotlight, in a year marked by bold moves for the 33-year-old.

After a promising start to the 2018/19 Sunshine Tour, Harding gave up the chase for the Order of Merit title in January to focus on the European Tour.

Harding turned professional in 2010 following a distinguished amateur career that saw him represent South Africa and attend Lamar University in Texas. In 2005 he won three amateur titles in the shape of the Cape Province Open, Western Province Strokeplay Open and North West Open.

Much of his professional career has been confined to the Sunshine Tour so it is no surprise that seven of his ten professional tournament wins have come on the Southern African tour.

Harding’s progress as a player has been steady if unspectacular, after graduating from Lamar he immediately qualified for the Sunshine tour finishing third at the 2009 qualifying school while still an amateur. He would win a tournament in each of his first three years on the tour before enduring barren years in 2013 and 2014.

2018 would prove to be Harding’s best year, at least in terms of tournament wins. He won twice in two weeks on the Sunshine tour securing the Royal Swazi Open and the Lombard Insurance Classic in May before another brace of wins on the European Tour.

In July of 2018, Harding won the Bank BRI Indonesia Open and earned a credible six stroke victory at the Royal Cup in Thailand. The successes might have emboldened Harding to push himself to what might be seen as the ‘next level’ of his career in Europe and America.

Harding has tasted Major competition twice before but missed the cut at both the 2013 Open Championship at Gullane and the 2018 US PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club.

As a player that showed great consistency on the Sunshine tour which enabled him to bag tidy winnings over the years there is a certain amount of risk associated with switching to the more prominent European Tour but the decisiveness Harding has shown is a good indicator of a positive mind frame.

He was one of the last players to qualify for the Masters this year. His bold switch to Europe was followed by a win in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in March which moved him into the top fifty of the World Golf Rankings.

Describing a briefly-held Masters clubhouse lead as a the highlight of Harding’s career would do him a disservice as a player. His moment of prominence should be an affirmation of his skills as a professional and will, hopefully, motivate him to achieve further success.

There is no reason that Harding cannot become a player that deserves to be mentioned alongside names like Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in a golden generation of South African golfing talent.

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