Rising Star

When Tumelo Molloyi stepped up to play his approach shot on the par-five 5th during the second round of the 2021 Blair Atholl Championship, he had no idea that the swing he was about to make would plague him to this day.

He slipped, tore his glute, and with the muscle no longer supporting him, hurt his back in the coming holes. He has been struggling to regain his health ever since.

He managed to make only one cut on the Sunshine Tour that season, and none in the following. Inevitably, he lost his card.

With ample free time on his hands in 2023, Molloyi decided to go back to the drawing board.

“I tried using this year as a time of just getting things together, of sitting back and reflecting on where my game is at,” the 28-year-old says between lessons at Blue Valley Golf & Country Estate, where he works as an instructor while completing his PGA apprenticeship under Adriaan Nell.

quickfire SHOTS

Molloyi’s playlist.

One lesson I learned while at the SAGDB was that playing golf is a privilege and being out on the golf course is an honour, and I should treasure it and treat it with respect

“When you’re on Tour, all you focus on is ‘perform, perform, perform’. You don’t take the time to figure out what you need to do to get to the next level.”

He realised he had to find a better way of playing around his injury, so he sought help from Kyle Phelan, the head teaching professional at Centurion Country Club.

Kyle was impressed with Molloyi’s attitude from the get-go.

‘He came in with an open mind and was ready to change for the better. It wasn’t going to be an easy fix and it was going to be frustrating, but he knuckled down and did the work – and we are definitely starting to see a difference.’

Molloyi’s recent results agree. In October, the SAGDB graduate posted a bogey-free 68 to secure a one-shot victory at the Blue Label Development Tour’s one-day event at Waterkloof Golf Club – his maiden Sunshine Tour victory.

He followed that up by placing 11th and 18th at his next two outings, but then missed the cut two weeks later at Blue Valley when the weather turned cold and his back seized up again.

“The biggest thing for me at the moment is to get my body fit and strong, so that I can compete and swing the club the way I want to.”

To this end, he has started working with a physical trainer at the World of Golf. But all of this – physical trainers, coaches, competing at tournaments – adds up, and while Molloyi has benefited greatly from organisations such as the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation over the years, he is playing on his own dime.

Despite the pressure this puts him under, especially given that he has a three-year-old son to care for, Molloyi values his position.

The win at Waterkloof meant so much to me. It proved to me that I can do it

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"One lesson I learned while at the SAGDB was that playing golf is a privilege and being out on the golf course is an honour, and I should treasure it and treat it with respect.

“My dad is always there to support me, and my fianceé Phindile Kwenda is always there. When I get down on myself, she reminds me of what I am capable of. So, it is very important to have a support system at all times.”

It was Molloyi’s dad Mike who introduced the Free State native to the game.

“He had a golf academy in Botshabelo: ‘Mike’s Golf Academy’. He played professional golf, and we used to go to the field to hit balls and practise.

“The fun times would be when we went to golf tournaments in the back of his bakkie, and we would get there and absolutely dominate. He made us play against each other to qualify for events and that gave us the competitive edge. That is how it all started for me.”

Reflecting on his first professional victory, Molloyi says: “The win at Waterkloof meant so much to me. It proved to me that I can do it. I had been working hard on my game and it was really tough to keep going and stay positive.

“To be honest, I just stuck to the process and it clicked that day. The big difference was that I was a lot better mentally. I tried to embrace it.”

Amor fati – a love of fate.