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The Back Nine with Almero Theron

24 Aug 2017

2017 Fellowship Cup Mid-Amateur Team - Almero Theron, Ryan Dreyer, Kevin Sharp & Gerlou Theron.

You would have been hard-pressed to find anyone outside the Free State golfing fraternity who knew the name Almero Theron at the start of the season. But this firebrand from Vaalpark in Sasolburg has literally gone from a Jack to a King since he joined the mid-amateur ranks in April.

Third in his first start, victory in the flagship event in May, top three finishes in two of his next three events, a debut for South Africa in the prestigious Fellowship Cup in August and then the number one ranking – all packed into five months.

So, who better to introduce in the first installment of our Back Nine series with South Africa’s top mid-amateur golfers than reigning SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play champion, Almero Theron.

FACT FILE
BORN - Pretoria RSA
DATE OF BIRTH - 16 February 1987
RESIDENCE - Vaalpark in Sasolburg, Free State
GOLF CLUB - Heron Banks Golf Course
UNION - Free State
HANDICAP - 0
FAMILY – My wife Jennifer, my son Jeanro (3) and my daughter, Jenelle (1). Of course, let’s not forget Pango and Chloe, our two Labradollies (Labrador and Border Colley mix), who are the naughtiest kids in the house.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT…
MY NICKNAME IS Johnny
I LOVE TO work with kids and help them achieve goals.
I PLAY WITH Taylormade MB TP irons and TP Wedges. I have a Callaway XR driver, my Epic 3-Wood is quite epic and so is the X2hot pro 18 deg Hybrid. Odyssey putter and Pro V1x ball. And a Leopard Creek ball marker.
I ALWAYS wear two pairs of socks and when it gets really cold, like below 24 degrees, I can easily don some long-johns – hence the nickname.
MY GO-TO CLUB off the tee is my 18 degree, 2 Hybrid. My favourite iron is my 7-iron and not needing the putter is always nice.
THE OLDEST CLUB IN MY BAG is my set of irons. I’ve had these trusty blades for four years.
THE MOTTO I LIVE BY IS: “If you ain't first, you’re last.”
THE BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED was a quite from major champion Retief Goosen: “Always stay in the present. Don't worry about the past or the future or anything that is out of your control. Always stay in the present and focus on what you can control. This shot. Right now.” He didn’t say it as cool as that, but something along those lines.

Q: NUMBER ONE IN THE RANKINGS. WHAT HAS THE LAST SIX MONTHS BEEN LIKE?
AT: A year ago I set myself a goal of making all three Free State Inter-Provincial teams – the SA Countries, SA Mid-Amateur and the Premier SA IPT teams. When I set what I thought was a realistic goal for myself, I had no idea of the milestones I would achieve along the way. Making the GolfRSA team was a huge bonus for me and has made this journey so much more rewarding.

Q: WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE TEST AGAINST INDIA AT LEOPARD CREEK?
AT: Leopard Creek was really INSANE for me – the best golfing experience of my career, by far. In the final round I was 3-down after 4 holes in my singles match in really difficult weather conditions, but I played even par from the fifth to the 17th to win 2-up. That gave us the win over India in the Mid-Amateur division. That was such a great way for me to end the week.
It took me two days just to get over the craziness of the Leopard Creek, because I was just in awe! Luckily the competition started on day three. What I took away from Leopard Creek was one hell of an enjoyable experience. That was my approach to the Fellowship Cup and that’s what I got. I told myself that I had done the hard work to get there. I believed in my game and my ability, but I didn’t take it so seriously that I forgot to enjoy it. From the bus trip down there to the bus trip back it was jut one long journey of enjoyment.

Q: TELL US ABOUT WHERE YOU GOT YOUR START IN THE GAME
AT: My dad took up the game in 1986. Over the last 30 years, his handicap varied between two and nine and I grew up with golf because my dad was such an avid golfer. I am told that I swung my first club before I could walk. I hit with one hand and supported myself with the other against a wall.
I remember when I made my first par I my dad came running up to me and high fived me with excitement, shouting “Your first par!” I was nine years old and it was a par three. I hit driver from the ladies tee and two-putted just off the green.
I started practicing full time at 13 when I chose golf up as my sport in high school. The bug really bit me big time. Every day for five years I worked hard. 

Q: CAREER BEST MOMENTS?
AT: That’s a tough one. Golf is my passion, so there are so many. Some of my best moments aren’t even mine, but the kids I teach. It’s so rewarding to celebrate their little accomplishments; is an unreal feeling.
I would have to say the standout moment of my career was winning the SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Sun City. The way I managed myself around the Gary Player Country Club, which is my favourite golf course, and also the way I kept it together mentally under all the pressure.

Q: YOU COME ACROSS AS A VERY HAPPY, LAID-BACK GUY, YET YOU ARE FIERCELY COMPETITIVE ON THE GOLF COURSE. WHAT DRIVES YOU?
AT: I am someone who always has a positive outlook. I got that from my dad. I don’t take stuff too seriously and that helps me to keep calm on the golf course. But since my son was born, an even greater calmness has come over me. I look at things in life differently and I’ve realized that there are so many things more important than getting the ball in the hole.
It's always been a dream of mine to play professional golf and even though I'm 30, I am very far from giving up on that dream. I think that’s what motivates me to still try to improve, to get us good as I feel I could be. I want to see what I can achieve if I give it everything; if I play and practice golf full time. I haven’t been able to work on my own game full-time just yet, but it is something I am working towards.

Q: HAVING HAD SUCH SUCCESS IN YOUR ROOKIE MID-AMATEUR SEASON, DO YOU THINK THE SENIOR PRO TOUR MIGHT BE AN OPTION, IN SAY 20 YEARS?
AT: Between 30 and 40 I want to give it everything I've got. Whether I turn pro at 40 or on the senior tour at 50, or even make it on to the pro tour in my thirties, I just don’t want to look back at the end of my career with regrets. I want to be able to say I gave it all. If I was good enough or if I wasn't good enough…I don’t want to have to say that I could've tried harder. Then I will be happy.

Q: DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A GOLFER.
AT: My biggest asset is my mental attitude and the ability to keep always keep fighting. I never give up and I stay positive, just like in life. Golf is the game of life. I don't just play golf, I live it. I love to play the game with my head, thinking my way around the course and not just bashing driver on every hole. I think that’s why I came out on top at Sun City.  I love shot making and pulling off shots other people wouldn’t even consider trying.

Q: SO HOW DO YOU FINANCE YOUR ‘HOBBY’?
AT:  This is where it gets awesome. My hobby is also my way I make a living. I launched IntroGolf in 2009, which is an approved coaching program of the PGA of South Africa. It allows me to coach, but still keep my amateur status. I teach kids between three and eight years old at pre-primary and primary schools. I love that I can grow the game and introduce new kids by the hundreds to golf every year. My son just joined in the program at his pre primary school and to see these little three-and four-year-olds go crazy for golf is just wonderful. 

Q: WHO ARE THE GOLFERS YOU MOST ADMIRE?
AT: I am an Ernie and Tiger guy. I grew up in their prime, staying up late to watch them and they were just amazing and so inspiring.

Q: HAVE YOU EVER CONSULTED A COACH?
AT: I have never been coached, but I think I might soon be looking in that direction.

Q: FORGETTING YOUR AMATEUR STATUS FOR A MOMENT, WHICH IS THE ONE TOURNAMENT YOU WOULD MOST WANT TO WIN?
AT: I would definitely say the Open Championship. It’s where the game started and I love links style golf, because you have to think your way around the course and be creative with your shots.

Q: IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE RULE OF GOLF, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
AT:  I would say relief from a divot in the fairway would be a fair change or to treat a spike mark as a pitch mark.

Q: YOUR FIVE MOST FAVOURITE COURSES?
AT: My five favourite courses are the Gary Player Country Club, Leopard Creek, Humewood, the Wild Coast and San Lameer.

Q: THE FIVE COURSES YOU WOULD MOST LIKE TO PLAY?
AT: My dream courses to play would be Augusta, St Andrews, Pebble Beach, Carnoustie and Muirfield.

Q: FANTASY FOURBALL?
AT: Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Will Farrell sounds like a fun four-ball to me.

Q: MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
AT:  Definitely the birth of my two children and the 10 I made at the 10th hole in the third round of the SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

Q: BUCKET LIST?
AT: Traveling the world to play golf and throwing some poker in there; maybe even caddy for my son or daughter on a pro tour one day.

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