Widely regarded as one of South Africa’s brightest golfing prospects, Reinard Schuhknecht’s rising stock soared even further still when he claimed the World One-Arm Match Play Championship in England this June.
The 22-year-old Vanderbijlpark golfer defeated top English prospect, Darren Grey, at the first hole of the sudden death play-off for the title.
But Schuhknecht is a man happier out of the limelight than in it. His penchant for understatement is almost as accomplished as his golf at the moment.
“I never thought I’d do well at Seaford,” Schuhknecht remarks in his unhurried, unassuming manner.
“I hadn’t played well in the build-up and I was disappointed with my performance at the first World Cup at Zebula. But I had come close last year. I guess when you really want something, you make it happen…”
The South African won the Stroke Play qualifier last year, but lost in the match play final of the international disabled golf championship, presented by the Society of One Armed Golfers. He vowed that one day, his name will be engraved on the coveted trophy.
Twelve months later, that box is ticked.
“That is one major item off my bucket list ticket,” Schuhknecht states. “My next goal is to play more events on the IGT Tour so I can get used to the pressure, the atmosphere and the set-up.
“I want to test myself more often against able-bodied golfers. My end goal is still the same….to compete professionally on the able-bodied circuit.”
Ironically, Schuhknecht was in the doldrums just weeks before he left for England.
A wrist injury incurred during the Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open seriously affected his swing and he battled through three rounds at the inaugural World Cup of Disabled Golf a week later.
“I struggled with the wrist injury throughout the tournament,” Schuhknecht admits. “I couldn’t afford to get aggressive, in case I did more damage.
“I went away from the World Cup thinking that if I was on form, we could have beaten the Australians. Not exactly the right frame of mind for the World Championship, so I just figured I’d take it one shot at a time and see where it took me.
“I was pleased to finish second in the Stroke Play qualifier and to make the Match Play, but again, I just took it one match at a time. That was probably the key to my success.”
Schuhknecht defeated Tony Hamley 4 & 2 in round one and Chris Wood 3 & 2 to make the semi-finals against Dave Waterhouse.
“I had a tough one against Dave. He doesn’t hit it very long, but he is very accurate and he doesn’t get into trouble. It put a lot of pressure on me and it fed my confidence when I beat him 2 & 1.”
Schuhknecht had come up against Grey during the World Cup of Disabled Golf.
“I played against him before,” Schuhknecht remarked. “He won the English & Welsh One-Armed Open Championship and he got knocked out in the semi-finals last year.”
Schuhknecht knew the match would be a humdinger and he was the one back foot almost immediately.
“I messed up the first couple of holes due to nerves and he was 2-up through three holes,” he admits.
“I got going at the fourth hole, turned 1-down and squared the match with a par at the 11th.”
For the next couple of holes, Grey went up and left Schuhknecht to do the hard work to square the match. The South African took the lead for the first time after draining a par-putt at the par-three 15th.
“We halved the next hole, a very long par-five, but I hit my tee shot out of bounds at the 17th. Luckily Darren messed up with his approach and we ended up halving the hole in bogeys. We were both in the middle of the fairway at the 18th, but I caught the greenside bunker and he knocked it front edge. I hit the lip of the trap and came back and he squared the match with a par.
“We were centre of the fairway again at the first. This time I hit it front edge and Darren was on the left, quite a distance from the pin on the right. I lagged it to two feet, but he left his first putt six feet short. He missed the putt for par, and I knocked mine in to clinch the championship.”
Reinard Schuhknecht didn’t arrive in Seaford with his A-game, but he gutted his way through the championship. He never backed down, he never gave up and he never doubted himself.
He may not yet have the presence of an Els, the intensity of an Oosthuizen or the calculating precision of a Schwartzel, but he does have an awfully good chance of becoming South Africa’s first professional disabled golfer.
Source: Lali Stander