A winner in waiting - the Justin Walters story
By: Michael Sherman
JOHANNESBURG - He’s used to fighting it out on the golf course for a place among Europe’s elite, but often the manner of performances of South African golfer Justin Walters far surpass the numbers he writes down on his scorecard.
At four years old, Walters had a pine needle go straight through his right eye. He suffers with double vision, a lazy eye and a number of conditions that go along with it. But none of that has stopped the now 39-year-old competing with the very best golfers this side of the Atlantic.
“I've had several operations, five or six, trying to help it. Right now, it's as good as it's going to get. There will be several occasions when I'm out on the golf course when I can see two golf balls, four sets of shoes and my double vision really causes havoc,” said Walters.
Though he has never won on the European Tour in the 227 events he has played, he has earned four runner-up finishes with career earnings of R45.7m.
The latest of those close shaves came on Sunday at the ISPS Handa UK Championship at The Belfry, in England. The record will show he lost on the second playoff hole to 19-year-old Dane Rasmus Hojgaard, but it will not show the character Walters displayed to fight for the title. The leader after every round, Walters’ chances looked over after a triple bogey seven on the eighth hole to surrender his advantage.
But in his true fighting fashion he fought back with a birdie on 10, stuttered with a bogey on 13, offset by three birdies in his next four holes and a clutch putt for par at the last saw him finish the four rounds tied for the lead with Hojgaard on 14-under. Another knee-trembling par putt holed followed for Walters on the first playoff hole, before finally falling short in the second hole of sudden death.
It has more often than not been a struggle for Walters to keep his European Tour playing card, and he entered the UK Championship at 156th on the Race to Dubai (European Tour moneylist). He had also missed the cut in three of the four events coming into the event. The second place, though, saw him rise 101 spots to 55th on the Race to Dubai which should be enough to keep his card for next season.
The win, however, was the main goal - and that remained agonisingly close for Walters. Despite the near miss, Walters showed the character of a multiple European winner.
Before the final round, Walters said: “I've worked my whole life to be in these situations, so why run away from it or be worried about it.
“I'll just go and play and trust my work, trust my talent, trust my ability to get the job done. It would be huge (to win), there's no lying about that. I'm 39 now, you wonder how many opportunities you will get going forward with all the youngsters coming through.
Maybe like a good red wine I'll get better with age, but I don't know, it would be nice to take advantage tomorrow.”
African News Agency (ANA)