After several misses, George Coetzee finally found himself putting for a European Tour title on a Sunday afternoon when he won the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club earlier this year.
Coetzee produced a superb bogey-free final round of 66 to claim his maiden European Tour title by three strokes on 19 under par.
It was just reward for a man who had come close several times before this only to be denied on the final day. And it gave him the confidence he was looking for.
“I’m very happy to have finished the job. What’s more important for me than the trophy is that I gave it my best shot and I got the job done.”
Coetzee has been part of a wave of young South African professionals making a name for themselves on the international stage over the past few years.
But golf might never have had the pleasure of his talent were it not for him rebelling against his father’s wish for him to become a tennis player.
He won the first amateur tournament he ever played in – a nine-hole tournament at Pretoria Country Club.
“It was for 10-11-years-olds, and on my birthday. It was called the Gary Player Week, and you got to play the course every day for a week leading up to the tournament on the Friday. I shot a 49 to win by two shots,” he said.
Armed with a natural rebellious streak, Coetzee’s other enduring memory of his amateur days was the “community service” he had to do at his golf club.
“It was six Saturdays of community service, or rather ball spotting. It was for playing without shirts at Centurion Country Club on a really hot Monday afternoon. Kevin Stone (the former touring pro and then Golf Director at Centurion CC) spotted us. He was furious.”
After an impressive amateur career, Coetzee turned professional in 2007 and won during his rookie season on the Sunshine Tour in the Vodacom Origins of Golf.
After settling in as a solid campaigner on the winter section of the local tour, his next goal was win in the summer. That came in the 2011 Telkom PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg.
“That was an eye-opener and a boost to my confidence for the rest of the year. It helped with my confidence on the European Tour.”
And his confidence peaked again when he broke through on the European Tour in the Joburg Open.
Apart from this victory, the highlights for Coetzee this year have been 18th in the Open Championship, fourth in the Volvo world Match Play Championship, and tied 10th in the BMW Masters, tied ninth in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and tied 12th in the WGC-HSBC Champions.
A lover of all sports, Coetzee is also a staunch Liverpool Football Club supporter.
“When I was about five-years-old, my sister and I were watching a game of football between two teams – one in red and the other in yellow. My sister asked me which team I thought was going to win, and I said the red team. I asked her the same question, and she replied that the team that wins is the team that she was supporting. The yellow team won and that got me quite angry. All I could remember about the yellow team was this one player. A couple of years later this same player (Robbie Fowler) was playing for Liverpool. So I became a supporter.”
He’s also quite deadly when it comes to darts and table tennis.
“Like I’m always telling my mates – golf is just a hobby and darts, or table tennis, is my game.”