This week, one of the most powerful hitters in professional golf will take to the course in Palm Springs.
No, not Bryson DeChambeau, but someone else. Neither is Wilco Nienaber, for that matter. Instead, Nienaber’s fellow South African, James Hart du Preez, who at nearly 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds is a slightly leaner Jon Thompson – but with the swing speed of Kyle Berkshire – will take on the challenge.
Hart du Preez, a 26-year-old Pretoria native who will make his PGA Tour debut at The American Express Championship on a sponsor invitation, has a driver swing speed of more than 140 mph and was the Sunshine Tour’s driving distance leader last season, averaging 373.07 yards per round.
He will make his PGA Tour debut at The American Express Championship on a sponsor invitation. Though the altitude undoubtedly helped, Nienaber’s distance was nearly 15 yards longer than Nienaber’s, who finished first on the DP World Tour in that category last season with a 323.31 yard mark.
“If you look at the top 10 in the world, all of them have a massive power element to their game,” du Preez said last year in an interview. “Being able to hit the ball as far as I do … if I can keep myself healthy enough, I’d like to think that I can achieve my goal of competing week in and week out on the PGA Tour.”
Though he is ranked in the top 10 in the world, Du Preez does not rank anywhere near the top 1,000 in any other category. Despite his height and length (as well as his athleticism; he participated in cricket and water polo in high school). He is ranked No. 1,319 in the world by the International Tennis Federation. Since turning pro in 2018, he has only managed four top-10 finishes in the world, all on the Sunshine Tour. This was as he has battled injuries, the majority of which have been chronic pain and inflammation caused by an arthritic condition.
Since last fall, he has progressed to the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, but has been unable to qualify for the final stage and thus earn conditional status on the feeder tour. Du Preez described the second half of the previous year as “a blur.”
“There were some good moments on the course and some disappointments, mainly not making it to the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour school,” he wrote on his Instagram. “But I feel more grown up, learned a ton about myself and hopeful for what lies ahead. I am currently pretty much broke, 26 years old, relying heavily on my parents for financial help and feeling under massive pressure. However, I will always rather be the man in the arena chasing my dream.
“When you hear those stories of ‘years ago I was struggling so much I did x-y or z and look where I am now,’ I am in the middle of that struggle. But it’s all part of the journey. Work, neutral attitude and a ton of faith are all you can control. My profession is cutthroat as hell, but there’s nothing I’d much rather do. Plenty time to make this the best year of my life to date.”
He can start the turnaround this week in Palm Springs, where all eyes will likely be on the big big-hitter.
Read the original article on Golf Channel.