Sunshine Tour

Golf caddie Nkonyane hits jackpot

2017-01-22 05:56
PATRIOTIC: Thami Nkonyane displays a SA flag next to Graeme Storm, who won the SA Open Championship. (Luke Walker, Sunshine Tour, Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Professional golf caddie Thami Nkonyane is about to improve the quality of his life after getting R300 000 – the biggest payday of his career for helping England’s Graeme Storm win the SA Open Championship.

Storm went toe to toe with tournament favourite Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy at Glendower Golf Club last Sunday to win the world’s second-oldest golf major.

Storm came out on top at the third play-off hole to lift the trophy for the first time and pocket a staggering R2.3 million first prize for his efforts.

According to the rules, a caddie is entitled to a 10% cut of the player’s total earnings after the event and this pushes Nkonyane’s figure to R300 000, which includes a bonus for the caddie.

Nkonyane has only received R9 000 from Storm and will get the remaining R299 100 when his “boss” returns to South Africa to compete at the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Country Club from February 23-26.

Nkonyane says the delay to get the full payment is that Storm could not cash in the money on Sunday as he was preparing to leave for Hartlepool in England.

But parties agreed that the balance would be settled on Storm’s return to Mzansi for the Joburg Open.

But the 51-year-old Nkonyane is unperturbed by the fact that his earnings will come in dribs and drabs, saying he is happy that the quality of his life will change for the better.

Proudest moment

Storm’s victory was masterminded by Nkonyane who gave him tips on how to conquer the tough Glendower signature course throughout the four-day showdown.

This saw the Englishman storm to the leaderboard from the third day until the final round where he held his nerve and won the event.

But for the Soweto-born Nkonyane, who lives in a two-room RDP house in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg, with his girlfriend, Leira, the windfall – the biggest pay cheque of his entire career as a caddie and his proudest moment – will come in handy to boost his bank account.

He has never received such a huge amount during his line of work as the man who has been guiding professional golfers on the course for more than 30 years.

“To be honest, helping Storm win the SA Open has boosted me financially,” said an ecstatic Nkonyane.

“I’m planning to use the money wisely by extending my house and ultimately marrying my girlfriend Leira with whom I’ve been sharing this house since my wife passed away in 2007.”

He said he would invest the rest of his cash.

“As a caddie, you’ll never know what might happen in future, as not many golfers you work with win big games. It’s wise to save some money for tough times whenever you get a bigger pay day,” he said.

Nkonyane, who ekes out a living by carrying golfers’ bags at Glendower, said winning the Open trophy with Storm was fulfilling.

“It was very special to win the SA Open in front of my home crowd with Graeme because we’ve known each other for more than 20 years,” he said.

“I used to caddie for him in his amateur days when he came to South Africa as a youngster to compete in the SA Stroke Play and SA Match Play,” Nkonyane added.

“We always reconnect when he comes to South Africa and he calls me if he doesn’t bring his own bagman. He did just that last week.”

Over the past three decades, Nkonyane has carried many golf clubs of some prominent players with whom he worked on the course, included the country’s former top players Hugh Baiocchi and Wayne Wester and American Woody Austin who featured on the PGA Tour.

About the strategy that made Storm prevail on the course against McIlroy, Nkonyane said: “My job was to keep Graeme looking ahead and keep him in the game.

I gave him tips on how to hit straight shots. I’m pleased he had the confidence to tackle Rory.”

Read more on:    graeme storm  |  johannesburg  |  golf
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