Back to news

The Quick Interview – Altin van der Merwe

South African amateur Altin van der Merwe made history when he became the first men’s champion of the R&A’s inaugural Africa Amateur Championship held at Leopard Creek earlier this year. The victory secured him a place in the upcoming Open Championship at Royal Troon in July as well as the Alfred Dunhill Championship later this year, and he also recently won the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in what has been a watershed year so far for the 27-year-old GolfRSA star.

Question: You’ve had an illustrious amateur career. How significant a moment for you was adding the first Africa Amateur Championship title to your list of achievements?

Altin: That win was probably the top point of my amateur career because of the opportunity it created for me to play in The Open. It’s what we were all playing for that week. To be able to cap off my amateur career in South Africa this way has been an absolute highlight for me. This year everything just came together for me. Mentally I matured quite a bit, everything just clicked and I rode that momentum.

Question: How would you describe winning such a prestigious tournament at an equally prestigious course such as Leopard Creek?

Altin: Leopard Creek has always been a challenge for me and it’s often got the better of me in the past. I changed my game plan this time and played the course more aggressively. I also putted well that week. It was also great to have the R&A there. They are so professional and made sure we had everything we needed. Everything just ran so smoothly and we just had to play golf.

Question: How much are you looking forward to the challenge of The Open?

Altin: I’ve never been there. I haven’t even been there as a spectator. But I’ve watched it on TV at home, and I’ve watched every single official film of The Open. I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I’m there. But I’m looking forward to the experience and I’ll take in every single moment and try and enjoy it as much as possible.

Question: You also won the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School. What did that moment do for you in terms of your career aspirations?

Altin: I didn’t go with the mentality to win that week. You need to play pretty conservative golf there to ensure you give yourself a chance over the last two days, and which I did very well. I also putted very well. It was awesome to win. I had my wife and best friend with me. Having them share that moment with me makes me feel very blessed. I’ve dreamt about playing on the Sunshine Tour for the last ten years, and finally I’ll be able to do that now.

Question: Most amateurs turn pro at a very young age. What has been behind your decision to enjoy your amateur golf for as long as you have?

Altin: I was pretty late in the game and I only started playing seriously when I was 17. I tried to turn professional when I was 19 and missed by one shot at qualifying school. I’m actually glad it happened because I wasn’t mature enough. I decided to go study after that, but I still always dreamt of being a professional golfer. I’d still say to any young amateur out there to finish school first and then try competing as an amateur in professional events so you can see what the pressure is like, because playing for money is a whole different ball game and it changes your focus.

Question: What are you busy with outside of golf? Do you study or are you working?

Altin: I’m done studying so I have something behind my name. I’ve also worked as a waiter for four years and I helped my brother with his business for about a year. Last year my manager at the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and I decided I’ll just focus on my golf for a year and see where I can get to. It worked out pretty well. Hopefully I can make a career out of it, starting on the Sunshine Tour.