South Africa's MJ Daffue reflects on a watershed past few weeks in which he gained his PGA Tour card and played in his first US Open.
Question: It's been an incredible year for you so far. After years of hard work, personal setbacks and sacrifices you earned your PGA Tour card and played in your first Major in the US Open. Has it all sunk in yet?
MJ: "I've been so focused on my goals and what I'm trying to achieve that it hasn't really sunk in yet. I've always believed that I'm good enough. I've just been so driven knowing that I'm good enough to play at the highest level. I was told from a young age that people aren't afraid of failing but are afraid of success. I've told myself to embrace the success and to really chase it and not be afraid of it."
Question: You developed an almost cult following with your Monday Qualifying success for PGA Tour events. Your determination caught the attention of the Alfred Dunhill Championship organisers who granted you an invitation to the 2020 tournament. How was that experience?
MJ: "That kind of recognition means a lot to me because it gives you the confidence to know that you're doing the right things. I've been blessed with so much support from South African golfers. I know Erik van Rooyen, Branden Grace and Shaun Norris really well. I grew up with Shaun. I was able to get to know Charl Schwartzel really well and become quite close, and he's been a great friend for me. Louis Oosthuizen is hilarious and an awesome person. I've known Retief Goosen for a long time. He's supported me a lot. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be playing. From 2013 to 2017 I didn't play well and he believed in me and paid for me to go to qualifying school every year. Even though I kept missing, I was able to keep the train going. If the train stopped it would've been hard, and he kept that going for me. And then even during the US Open, Ernie Els phoned me to wish me luck and give me some advice."
Question: The 2022 US Open in Brookline was your first Major, and you looked so comfortable on that stage?
MJ: "My sports psychologist told me the US Open is like riding a bull. It will do its best to knock you off and it's about holding on for as long as you can. It was my first Major. I know what that feels like now. That US Open experience, and everything around it, is now the benchmark for me of how I want my career to be."
Question: What's been your secret to overcoming the challenges and hardships you've faced to reach this point in your career?
MJ: "You don't experience anything without experiencing the bottom. You don't learn from the top. You learn from the bottom. I've been at the bottom for so long that anything not the bottom is the top. If you focus on what you don't have, you'll never have enough. But if you focus on what you do have, you'll always have enough. I once read a quote from the actor Matthew McConaughey who was asked who his hero was? His answer was himself in 10 years. I feel like that sums it up well. With that mindset you keep chasing improvement for yourself."
Question: Where to from here?
MJ: "I'll re-evaluate after this season and chase my new goals hard. One of my immediate goals is the top 50 in the world. Another is The Presidents Cup and trying to make the International Team."