Duncan Village golfer goes pro with Tour event in Kenya
Top East London golfer Lwazi Gqira is set to celebrate going pro in the best possible way when he takes part in his first Sunshine Tour event as a professional next week in Kenya.
The 26-year-old Duncan Village resident, who recently received his pro card, will take part in the KCB Karen Masters tournament, with a grand prize of R2.2m up for grabs, at Karen Country Club in Nairobi.
“This is the first Sunshine Tour event that I am exempt to play, so I am very excited and I am really looking forward to it,” said Gqira.
“Playing my first tour event as a pro out of the country has shown me just how different it is going to be from now on and it has completely changed my momentum.
“My mindset and everything has changed and I know that now I am good enough to be there.”
With it being his first outing as a professional, Gqira is aware he will be facing a much stronger field than he has been used to over the past few years.
“There are no expectations to be honest, for me it is all about getting my mindset right and make sure that I play according to my strengths and limit my mistakes,” explained Gqira.
“This is just the first of many for me, obviously I would love to win but I will not be disheartened by whatever happens, I just want to aim to go under par every day and stay among the challengers throughout, as that would be a perfect start for me.”
He still has a few days left in South Africa to get in some training before heading to Kenya next week, where he will have to get used to the climate and conditions as quickly as possible to be fully ready for the event. “I am off to the range to practise my short game and my bunker shots and my putting today [Thursday], and also hit a few iron shots so I can make sure my iron shots are 100%, and then play 18 holes,” said Gqira.
I know that now I am good enough to be there
“Then next week I am leaving for Kenya on Monday because the tournament starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday.
“When I am there it is going to be very different, I have never been to Kenya and I will be playing on a brand new course. It is a new experience and I have to get used to the course.
“I am planning to have at least two practice rounds before the tournament.”
Gqira was able to realise his dream of turning pro thanks to the sponsorship he has received over the years from the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) at the Port of East London.
He has also been coached for many years by experienced East London golf coach Michelle de Vries, who has helped him refine his game.
“I was very excited to finally get my Sunshine pro card because it is not easy. You are competing with some of the best up-and-coming players in South Africa, so it is very difficult to get,” said Gqira.
“I had played at the Vusi Ngubeni pro school twice before and just missed out, so I was really happy to finally get through this time.
“I chatted to Terry Taylor from Transnet yesterday [Wednesday] and told him that I had received this invite from the Sunshine Tour and that I was exempt and he was so thrilled for me.
“I am very grateful for everything they’ve done for me.
“I have also been in constant contact with my coach Michelle. She is so excited for me and we were chatting this morning [Thursday] about how I should approach this tournament because she has been in this game for many years, and knows exactly what goes on on tour,” Gqira said.