Sitting in the players’ lounge at Glendower Golf Club, 18-year-old Brandon Stone had just suffered a devastating loss in the 2012 SA Amateur Strokeplay Championship. He had managed, somehow, to turn a five-shot lead after two rounds into a sixth place finish, miles behind winner and fellow countryman, Haydn Porteous.
Remarkably, the young man appeared anything but devastated and said it was merely a learning curve on the way to what many in the game believe will be a bright future. This is the kind of maturity that will get him far in this game. After all, everybody out on tour is talented; it’s what goes on between the ears that separates the good from the great.
Stone, the son of veteran Sunshine Tour professional Kevin Stone, is the number one ranked amateur in the country. He has won national colors for every age group, from under 14 through under 18.
In January, he won two successive top amateur events—the KwaZulu Natal Open and the Prince’s Grant Invitational by a massive 10 shots, almost lapping the field. At the SA Amateur it started well too.
“I was playing so well the first two-and-a-half days,” says a smiling Brandon, looking at ease in his interview, like a seasoned tour professional.
“There are just some things you can control and some you can’t, and it was obvious I wasn’t meant to win this year, although the way I played the first two days was fantastic,” he pauses, recalling the cruel bounce he got on his ninth hole in the third round, where his ball hit the pin and ricocheted into the water, resulting in a triple bogey. This was the turning point in his tournament.
“I gave it all I could and I can’t ask more of myself, so at the end of the week I’m still proud of myself for performing—maybe not as well as I wanted, but I still gave my all and put top effort into every shot.”
Stone jokes that he started playing golf in his mother’s womb, but his love for the game came from admiring his dad’s swing at an early age.
“Since I could walk I was hitting balls with plastic clubs and I’ve always enjoyed the game. I’ve played Northerns under-12, 14, 16, 18, 19 and SA under 14, 16 and 18. So, I’ve always had a passion for the game,” he explains.
“It’s a sport I knew I was going to play and always wanted to play. That was the biggest worry for my dad; he didn’t want to push me, but I want to play. I play every day because I love it.”
His eyes light up when he talks about playing golf for a living.
“There’s nothing better than playing golf for me, because that’s what I want to do.
“You get some bad weeks like this week [although sixth place in the SA Amateur isn’t too shabby], but you get some great weeks like the first two weeks of the year for me, when I won back to back.”
Stone goes on to explain how winning is catchy and something that he has chased from a very young age.
“You just have to remember those good weeks, and come back the next week and try and win again. That feeling of winning is addictive. That feeling of accomplishment in your heart is what you want in life. That’s what I get from golf and I will do whatever I have to do to get it.”
Stone tells FORBES AFRICA about his 10-year plan; his ambitions are anything but modest.
“I want to play on the PGA tour,” he says.
The US PGA tour is the top tour in the world and the chances of making it there are slim.
He will not be going the popular route of turning professional at 18 and plying his trade on the local Sunshine Tour, effectively making cash straight away. Instead, he will be going to the United States to the University of Texas in Austin. Stone recently finished his schooling in 2011 at Cornwall College in Pretoria, attending just 18 days during the year.
Stone explains the unique relationship he has, both with his tour professional father and with an outside swing coach, Llewellyn van Luren.
“My dad is more of the ‘monitor’, as we call him. He’ll make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and if he feels that there’s something that doesn’t correspond with what Llewellyn has me working on, he’ll say so.
“My support structure around is me is unbelievable; my friends, my family, Facebook and Twitter—they’re all supporting and pushing me. And I think that’s so vital in this game of golf, which is such an individual game.”
‘Pebbles’, as he is known by his peers, will be off to the US in August, where he will start a three-year course in media studies.
Once he graduates, his plan is to turn professional and first try and qualify for the secondary tour there—the Nationwide Tour. From there he will try and make the progression onto the main PGA tour, either through qualifying school or with a high finish on the Nationwide Tour money list.
He will follow the path of fellow countryman Tim Clark, now 36, who did the same thing over a decade ago and now has over $10 million in career earnings.
One thing is for sure: at 18, Stone knows exactly where he’s going, and with the skill to back it up, he is earmarked as a leader of a new generation of South African world-beaters: Els, Goosen, Grace, Stone…wh
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