24 May 2019 – For a third year in succession, Saint Andrew’s schoolboy Dewan de Bruin will fly the South African flag in international competition when he contests the US Kids 12th annual European Championships at the Craigielaw Golf Club in Scotland from 28-30 May.
Now in grade five, Dewan will compete in the 10-year-old age group. Last year, he showed his class by finishing sixth overall in the European Champs. Had it not been for some first day nerves, he could have even lifted the title, with his scores improving from an opening 86 to 78 and then 71. But Dewan does not view winning as an all or nothing proposition.
“I think he is quite realistic,” his father, Louw, said in a recent interview. “He said that his target for this year is to finish in the top eight at the European Open. He’s not aiming too high and putting too much pressure on himself by saying he wants to finish first. His main focus is still to enjoy the whole trip.”
Dewan said he feels confident heading into the tournament and is happy with his all-round game. The experience of having played in Scotland last year also gives him further confidence that he will be able to play to his ability against the world’s best.
50 countries represented
The European Championships draw players from across the world, with last year’s edition including 630 players from five-years-old to 18 years of age from 50 countries. Dewan will be one of four South Africans in the field.
His talent for the game was discovered at a young age. “Neither my wife nor I play golf. At the age of three or four, we bought him a plastic golf set. Immediately you could see that he could hit a ball well. He had a talent for it,” Louw said.
After witnessing his natural feel for the game, Louw and his wife Rachel first sent Dewan for coaching from the age of six. Before they could catch their collective breaths, golf had become a regular and important part of their lives, with Dewan, who is currently ranked number one in his age group in South Africa, now playing in tournaments around the country.
“Every second weekend we are on the road. At this stage, he is organising our lives,” Louw smiled. That’s the challenge about living in Bloemfontein; to face top talent Dewan and his family need to do a lot of travelling.
“Before you learn lessons, you need to give him the exposure [to other top young players]. The more exposure he gets, the more he learns how to handle the pressure,” Louw explained.
“It’s not a team sport. There are no excuses. I think the biggest lesson he has learnt is that the ball doesn’t always bounce fairly. You learn a lot of life lessons without having to spend a lot of money.”
The travelling is Dewan’s least favourite aspect of the game. It’s tough on a young boy, but being able to travel abroad to play in the European Championships is a big bonus and the 2019 Championships are bound to be a severe challenge for the large field.
“This year he is playing on a full links course, next to the sea, so with the windy weather, we’ll have to see what happens,” Louw said.
“It’s going to be a little harder with the wind,” Dewan weighed in, “but I have played a lot of golf at the coast.” It also helps to have his father on the bag. Louw makes suggestions and reminds him of things he needs to consider, but that doesn’t mean he always takes that advice, Dewan admitted. After all, he is a better player than his dad.
This season Dewan has been in superb form, recording four wins – at Woodhill, Glenvista, Germiston and State Mines – three runner-up finishes and a fourth place on the SA Kids circuit.
He recently won the Oppenheimer Open under-11 title for a third year in succession, a feat never before achieved. In June, he will be aiming to capture the Junior Nomads’ title at Schoeman Park for a third time on the trot. That, too, would be a first.
When one considers his form and the fact that his coach, Corné Viljoen, plays out of Schoeman Park, it would seem a little foolish to bet against Dewan recording a hat-trick in the event.
The key to his game is his chipping and putting. It’s what has helped him excel, even against much older competition.
“Recently Dewan played in the cancer tournament at Schoeman Park,” Louw said. “They had to play off of the white tees, which are the men’s tees, and he shot an 85. It’s only because of his chipping and putting that he managed that. The previous weekend he played off of the ladies’ tees and shot a 73!”
While chipping and putting may be his forte, the rest of Dewan’s game is also rock solid. Louw commented: “He understands his swing. When he makes a mistake, he can tell you in detail what he did wrong. He understands the whole concept of the swing. At his age, you can ask him to hit a fade or a draw and he can do it.”
Dewan enjoys the solitude of practicing golf, but balances that by playing team sports at Saints, and is a talented cricket and hockey player. School sport takes precedence and he has to fit in his golf practices around it. Then, there’s academics, but he’s a solid performer in the class room.
While he entertains thoughts of a career in golf, Dewan is aware that the chances of that are slim. However, another top performance at the European Championships this year might have him dreaming more optimistically of making it a reality.