Harding makes a comeback in Cape golf

Henry

Five years ago, Cape golf star Justin Harding’s name was on everyone’s lips after he racked up titles one after the other around the world and also made his mark on the biggest stage on the magical Augusta course.

The 37-year-old Harding’s success story began at the end of 2018 when he triumphed twice in three weeks in the Asian series.

He then followed up these great performances with two European titles in early 2019 which saw him move into the top 50 in the world rankings.

Apart from pockets full of prize money, Harding’s big reward for about four months of excellent golf was an invitation to the prestigious American Masters tournament.

And at Augusta in the company of the game’s very best, the native of Somerset West firmly asserted himself and eventually finished joint 12th.

This performance ensured that he could compete again at Augusta in 2020, but unfortunately he was not able to dish out his best level of play again.

After years of steady play, fate struck Harding in September 2022 when he began experiencing hip problems.

A stress fracture was diagnosed which forced him off the golf course for 300 days and stopped his career in its tracks.

This week, after about six months of light grinding, Harding tries to launch a return to competitive golf for the second time when the Bain’s Whiskey Cape Town Open is decided at Royal Cape.

His first unsuccessful attempt was in the Zebula Invitational Tournament in Bela-Bela last week when he missed the cut of 140 (-4) by five shots.

“My goal is to regain my playing rights in the European series. I am close to right after a long struggle. You don’t realize how defenseless you are against serious injuries until it happens to you,” says Harding on the eve of his participation in the Cape this week.

The Cape Town Open is presented in consultation with the European Challenge Series and offers players a route to the DP World Series.

The DP World series is in Qatar this week, after which the series moves to Kenya at the end of the month and then to South Africa for two tournaments.

It is these three African tournaments that in Harding, at best no. 42 in the world ranking, his aim is to clinch his full player card again.

He competes on a medical exemption and can regain his player card if he performs well enough.

“I am happy that I have a chance to show what I can do again. The time away from the track was frustrating, but at least it gave me the incredible opportunity to see my little girl grow up.”

“It was a privilege to be able to play dad while I couldn’t be on the golf course,” says Harding about his return to the game and the birth of his first child at the end of 2022.

Harding’s partner is the 2013 winner of the British TV series The Apprentice, dr. Leah Totton, who together with the famous Lord Sugar owns a popular cosmetic face and skin care chain group.

“I am now a traveling father on the road and still have to get used to it. However, the golf course is calling and I’m burning to be at my best again,” says Harding.

The Cape Town Open starts on Thursday and runs until Sunday.

Prize money of around R7 million is at stake and players from more than 15 countries count among the field of 156 players who dream of success.

Additional information: Sunshine Tour.