It took Brandon Cloete less than three years and two failed trips through the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in his native South Africa to realize a career as a professional golfer might not be the easiest path to success and happiness.
It took the former Marquette University golfer 36 holes this week in the thick of the chase for the WSGA State Mid-Amateur Championship at Maple Bluff Country Club in Madison to realize how much fun competitive golf can be when your future doesn't depend on it. In his new line of work, that's called wealth management.
Cloete, 27, certainly felt richer for the experience after he fought past 31-year-old George Botts of Madison in a thrilling final round to win the sixth annual event for amateur golfers age 25 and older. His 3-under-par 68 in the final round gave Cloete a three-stroke victory over Botts and a considerable boost of confidence going into the 39th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which starts Saturday at the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo.
"It's been amazing for me," Cloete said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "I turned pro for a very brief time in 2017. I failed to get (onto) the Sunshine Tour twice and came over to the States, tried a few Web.com (Tour events) and still didn't get through that. I realized very soon, as a pro, it wasn't what I wanted to do anymore. I got my amateur status in October of 2018. Funny enough, since then I've been playing some of the best golf of my life.
"Not even worrying about it. Just enjoying playing golf again. Enjoying being in tournaments. Being in contention."
That's what made the last two days at Maple Bluff so enjoyable.
One shot behind to start the day, Cloete finally caught Botts, who didn't make a bogey over his first 27 holes, with a birdie on No. 14, took a one-shot lead when Botts three-putted from above the hole on No. 15 and then extended his cushion to two shots with a clutch par on the tricky, par-4 16th hole. Cloete called it the "defining moment" of the tournament because both he and Botts had to weigh the merit of using driver on the 370-yard hole vs. laying up and bringing the overhanging branches of a tree right of the green into play.
"I looked at the hole and thought the best option here was to get up as close to the green (left) as possible," Cloete said. "Even if I am in the rough or in the trees, there is no greenside bunker on that hole and you can try to punch one up to that back, right corner and leave yourself with a putt. ... It was probably my best drive of the day. It was about 40 yards short of the green in the left corner of the fairway with a perfect angle in (to the green)."
Botts left his drive out to the right. His approach shot clipped the tree and fell straight down. He left his third shot short of the hole and made a scrambling bogey while Cloete, whose approach shot hit a pitch mark and stopped dead on the green, made a two-putt par over the ridge to go two shots ahead.
"That was really the decider there," said Cloete, whose poise down the stretch came after he made a double-bogey on No. 12. "Funny enough, the calmest I felt the whole day was after I made the double on 12 and went back to one behind. I knew I need to get back to 3-under. I felt that was enough because it was a tough golf course, especially with the tournament nerves between myself and George. I felt really calm after I made the big mistake.
"I guess it showed down the stretch. I was able to hold on."
His victory comes amid a very busy time in his life.
Last Friday, he married his girlfriend Elyse McGillis in a small, courthouse ceremony in front of their families. Cloete, who left a job as an internal consultant for Investec in August to move to Madison to be with his new wife, said a more formal wedding will take place at a later date once the couple has had the chance to figure out where they want to put down roots long-term.
Elyse works as a project coordinator at UW Health in Madison. Cloete, who graduated Marquette with a finance degree, spent the last month caddying at Sand Valley Golf Resort near Nekoosa while he explores job options as a financial adviser.
"We don't want to make a decision on a whim," Cloete said. "Wherever we go will have to suit both of us. ... I'd been working for a company back home that dealt with high-network individuals and their investments. ... I was growing to become, eventually, an adviser myself. That's precisely what I want to go back into. I want to be client-facing. I want to get to know people.
"I want to use golf as a networking opportunity, but also become that trusted person to people."
In the meantime, Cloete is eager to spend another week on the golf course to see if he can trust his game against the nation's top over-25 amateurs.
"I guess the pressure of not having to perform and get results has worked out," said Cloete, who also won several events in South Africa since regaining amateur status. "Somehow, without having to practice or play everyday and having a job at home, I've still been able to maintain my playing ability."
|1||Brandon Cloete Madison, WI||-3||F||-3||71||68||139||200||$0|
|2||George Botts Madison, WI||E||F||+1||70||72||142||150||$0|
|3||Jim Doing Verona, WI||+2||F||+1||72||72||144||130||$0|
|4||Geoff Pirkl Oconomowoc, WI||+3||F||+3||71||74||145||120||$0|
|5||Jeffrey Kinnel Shorewood, WI||+4||F||+2||73||73||146||110||$0|
|T6||Joe Weber Onalaska, WI||+5||F||+2||74||73||147||90||$0|
|T6||Kevin Van Rossum Hartland, WI||+5||F||+4||72||75||147||90||$0|
|T6||Kevin Cahill Waukesha, WI||+5||F||+1||75||72||147||90||$0|
|T9||Kari Hannula Jr De Pere, WI||+7||F||+4||74||75||149||56.25||$0|
|T9||Chris Wood Mount Pleasant, WI||+7||F||+3||75||74||149||56.25||$0|
|T9||Jade Royston Wisconsin Dells, WI||+7||F||+2||76||73||149||56.25||$0|
|T9||Joe DuChateau Fond Du Lac, WI||+7||F||E||78||71||149||56.25||$0|
|T13||Aaron Gavin South Milwaukee, WI||+9||F||+4||76||75||151||37.50||$0|
|T13||Carl Hottmann Middleton, WI||+9||F||+4||76||75||151||37.50||$0|
|T15||Paul Schwarz Appleton||+10||F||+6||75||77||152||20||$0|
|T15||Todd Schaap Kenosha||+10||F||+5||76||76||152||20||$0|
|T15||Todd Westrich De Pere||+10||F||+4||77||75||152||20||$0|
|T15||Craig Hodgson Belleville, WI||+10||F||+2||79||73||152||20||$0|
|T15||John Stravinski Windsor, WI||+10||F||+1||80||72||152||20||$0|
|T20||Jonathan Fall Cedarburg, WI||+11||F||+7||75||78||153||1.67||$0|
|T20||Derrick Meier Waunakee, WI||+11||F||+5||77||76||153||1.67||$0|
|T20||Derek Pirkl Madison, WI||+11||F||+5||77||76||153||1.67||$0|
|T23||Robert Gregorski Menasha, WI||+12||F||+7||76||78||154||$0|
|T23||Colton Duwe Oconomowoc, WI||+12||F||+8||75||79||154||$0|
|T23||Ben Opsal Rhinelander, WI||+12||F||+7||76||78||154||$0|
|T23||Bruce Henning Brookfield, WI||+12||F||+7||76||78||154||$0|
|T23||Michael Flynn Middleton, WI||+12||F||+5||78||76||154||$0|
|T23||Dick Regenberg Madison, WI||+12||F||+5||78||76||154||$0|
|T23||Nicholas Zellmer Milwaukee, WI||+12||F||+4||79||75||154||$0|
|T23||Ahmad Perry Mequon, WI||+12||F||+4||79||75||154||$0|
|T31||Jeff Glisch Middleton, WI||+13||F||+9||75||80||155||$0|
|T31||Mike Murphy Fitchburg, WI||+13||F||+7||77||78||155||$0|
|T31||Ryan Penfield Madison, WI||+13||F||+6||78||77||155||$0|
|T31||Dave Ullenberg Brown Deer, WI||+13||F||+4||80||75||155||$0|
|T31||Bob Eldridge Oconomowoc, WI||+13||F *||+4||80||75||155||$0|
|T31||John Kestly Pewaukee, WI||+13||F||+1||83||72||155||$0|
|T37||Jim Gariti Cottage Grove, WI||+14||F||+9||76||80||156||$0|
|T37||Brian McCall Middleton, WI||+14||F||+8||77||79||156||$0|
|T37||Jason Jahnke Kewaskum, WI||+14||F||+6||79||77||156||$0|
|T37||Chip Summers Richfield, WI||+14||F||+5||80||76||156||$0|
|T37||Gregory Wagner Cambridge, WI||+14||F *||+4||81||75||156||$0|
|T37||Garth Gilster Eagle River, WI||+14||F *||+3||82||74||156||$0|
|T37||Michael Bastian Milwaukee, WI||+14||F *||+4||81||75||156||$0|
|T37||Robert Hughes Wauwatosa, WI||+14||F||+3||82||74||156||$0|
|T37||Eric Goldapske Sun Prairie, WI||+14||F||+2||83||73||156||$0|
|T46||Jim Rollefson Franklin, WI||+16||F||+13||74||84||158||$0|
|T46||Richie Burke Milwaukee, WI||+16||F *||+6||81||77||158||$0|
|T46||Marc Shanks Madison, WI||+16||F *||+6||81||77||158||$0|
|T49||Jim Walkley Onalaska, WI||+17||F||+12||76||83||159||$0|
|T49||Bill Buckles Stoughton, WI||+17||F||+12||76||83||159||$0|
|T49||Steven Tylke Lisbon, WI||+17||F||+12||76||83||159||$0|
|T49||Mike Mueller Whitefish Bay, WI||+17||F||+10||78||81||159||$0|
|T49||Corey Sell Oconomowoc, WI||+17||F||+8||80||79||159||$0|
|T49||Montana Stewart Onalaska, WI||+17||F||+3||85||74||159||$0|
|T55||Peter Kaufmann Wauwatosa, WI||+18||F||+10||79||81||160||$0|
|T55||Joe Knapton Mt Pleasant, WI||+18||F||+10||79||81||160||$0|
|T55||Ryan Schmus Brookfield, WI||+18||F||+6||83||77||160||$0|
|T58||Travis Pronschinske Oconomowoc, WI||+19||F||+12||78||83||161||$0|
|T58||Kyler Royston Wisconsin Dells, WI||+19||F||+11||79||82||161||$0|
|T58||Scott Johnson Verona, WI||+19||F||+7||83||78||161||$0|
|T58||Daniel Benedum Menomonee Falls, WI||+19||F||+6||84||77||161||$0|
|T62||Jason Schroeder Oregon, WI||+20||F||+15||76||86||162||$0|
|T62||Brad O'Loughlin Madison, WI||+20||F||+13||78||84||162||$0|
|T62||Charles Buhrow Brookfield, WI||+20||F||+13||78||84||162||$0|
|T62||Erich Schwarz Madison, WI||+20||F||+13||78||84||162||$0|
|T62||James Gunsalus Brookfield, WI||+20||F||+8||83||79||162||$0|
|T67||Alexander Fons Milwaukee, WI||+21||F||+13||79||84||163||$0|
|T67||John Triller Green Lake, WI||+21||F||+12||80||83||163||$0|
|T67||John Golden Sun Prairie, WI||+21||F||+12||80||83||163||$0|
|T67||Walter Nusslock Glendale, WI||+21||F||+10||82||81||163||$0|
|T67||Charlie Baumann Monroe, WI||+21||F||+7||85||78||163||$0|
|T72||Patrick Gorman East Troy, WI||+22||F||+9||84||80||164||$0|
|T72||Rick Theiler Grafton, WI||+22||F||+7||86||78||164||$0|
|T74||Derek Westrum McFarland, WI||+23||F||+10||84||81||165||$0|
|T74||Kyle Smith Grafton, WI||+23||F||+8||86||79||165||$0|
|T76||Tom Thompson DePere, WI||+24||F||+10||85||81||166||$0|
|T76||Scott Behring Franklin, WI||+24||F||+8||87||79||166||$0|
|T76||Jacob LaConte Waukesha, WI||+24||F||+9||86||80||166||$0|
|T79||Daniel Mueller Kenosha, WI||+25||F||+14||82||85||167||$0|
|T79||Matt Fitzgerald Verona, WI||+25||F||+13||83||84||167||$0|
|T79||Bill Feehan, Jr. La Crosse||+25||F||+10||86||81||167||$0|
|T79||Bradley Hill Menomonee Falls, WI||+25||F||+9||87||80||167||$0|
|T79||Tom Murphy Madison, WI||+25||F||+9||87||80||167||$0|
|T79||Chris Kleine Middleton, WI||+25||F||+6||90||77||167||$0|
|T85||Tom Schoewe Sun Prairie, WI||+26||F||+14||83||85||168||$0|
|T85||Dean Sixel Sheboygan, WI||+26||F||+14||83||85||168||$0|
|T85||Dan Wick Waukesha, WI||+26||F||+11||86||82||168||$0|
|T85||Brian Orozco Greenfield, WI||+26||F||+8||89||79||168||$0|
|T89||Billy Strey Genoa City, WI||+27||F||+14||84||85||169||$0|
|T89||Nick Schreck Madison, WI||+27||F||+14||84||85||169||$0|
|T89||Mike Aumann Blue Mounds, WI||+27||F||+10||88||81||169||$0|
|92||Wesley Schwarz Kaukauna, WI||+28||F||+12||87||83||170||$0|
|T93||Keith Luedtke South Milwaukee, WI||+29||F *||+20||80||91||171||$0|
|T93||Rick Stewart Onalaska, WI||+29||F||+14||86||85||171||$0|
|95||Paul Borek Greenville, WI||+30||F||+13||88||84||172||$0|
|96||Evan Johnston Middleton, WI||+32||F||+20||83||91||174||$0|
|T97||Adam Willms Muskego, WI||+34||F||+22||83||93||176||$0|
|T97||-||Nick Tanin Madison, WI||+34||F||+16||89||87||176||$0|
|T97||Brett Hughes Madison, WI||+34||F||+13||92||84||176||$0|
|100||Jonathan Krause Oshkosh, WI||+35||F||+18||88||89||177||$0|
|101||Robert Martin Eau Claire, WI||+38||F||+19||90||90||180||$0|
|102||Matthew Schmit Verona, WI||+41||F||+21||91||92||183||$0|
|103||Jon Budzien Madison, WI||+43||F||+22||92||93||185||$0|