Belek – Dylan Frittelli was the third in a growing band of young South Africans to win on the European Tour this season and he is keen to impact in his debut in the Turkish Airlines Open this week.
An infectiously positive character, Frittelli put the play-off heartbreak of the Volvo China Open to bed when he won the Lyonness Open in Austria in June.
He continued to rubber-stamp his rise with a fistful of strong finishes that boosted him to 39th in the Race to Dubai rankings. Not surprisingly, the 27-year-old from Johannesburg will lead the six-man South African challenge in the $7-million limited field event, which tees off at the Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort from 2-5 November.
It’s definitely not a bad place to find oneself at the business end of the season.
“When I started the year, I definitely didn’t see myself sitting here, talking about my season over an ice cream in the patisserie of the Regnum Carya,” said a smiling Frittelli on Tuesday.
“I set two goals for myself at the start of the season – to keep my European Tour card and to win a tournament. It happened a lot earlier than I expected. But that’s the thing with goals. When you go for that one big goal, it often opens door for you down the road.”
Frittelli rose to number one in the South African Amateur Rankings before he started a scholarship at the University of Texas. He departed Texas with a degree in geography and the honour of landing a third NCAA Men's Golf Championship title for the Longhorns with a 30-foot putt on the 18th green.
He diligently worked his way via the European Challenge Tour to the main circuit, where another typically efficient display has defined his rookie season.
“You know, I didn’t even think about the Rolex Series because it was still months away,” he said.
“When I was an amateur, I used to set myself lots of little goals. At this level, though, that can be distracting. So I choose just one main goal.
“My only aim at the start of the year was to go for broke in the first part of the season to try to build to a victory. Now I’m here in Turkey. Next week I’ll be playing my first Nedbank Golf Challenge, another dream come true. And then it’s on to the DP World Golf Championship.
“Starting this week, I have three chances to break into the top 30 on the Race to Dubai before the season ends. That would qualify me for the Open Championship next year. In 2018, the goal will be breaking into the top 50 in the world rankings, so I can qualify for all the majors. I believe that you have to have setbacks and go trial and error to find what works for you. Once you’ve got that, the rest falls into place.”
Frittelli, who will tee it up alongside compatriots George Coetzee, Brandon Stone, Dean Burmester, Richard Sterne and Haydn Porteous, liked the look of the course after two practice rounds.
“The course is in immaculate condition and it’s a ball striker’s course,” he said. “The longer hitters will definitely have an advantage. The greens are quite big, but they all have tricky sections, so you have to hit it in the rights spot. It definitely plays into the strengths of my game and someone like Dean, who hits it a land mile, should also do well here.”
Over the last 12 months, Frittelli has added a European Tour title to his two Challenge Tour trophies, qualified for the Rolex Series and he is ready to take on the world’s elite. Of the course, though, he is just as proud of the work he has put in on his physique.
“I’ve always loved surfing, but I used to be too scrawny to surf with the big guys,” he said.
“Although I’m probably still a 16-20 handicap in the surf, at least now I’m big enough to paddle out to the big waves at the back.
“You know, you asked me about my season highlights. Winning the Lyoness Open was the pinnacle of my career, but the absolute highlight of my season was playing with surfing legend Kelly Slater in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“He won the world championship 11 times, but can that guy play golf. He could easily play the pro circuit. He was around one and a half putts better than me in all three rounds in Scotland and he was sinking everything from 1 foot to 15 feet. And he is such a class act. I’m already wondering if I can request to play with him again next year.”