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How Canadian golfer Jared du Toit is making the most of frequent-flyer miles

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Considering his daunting work travel schedule, it’s totally understandable if Jared du Toit has trouble remembering what country he’s in when he wakes up these days.

The Canadian golfer isn’t complaining one bit, though.

“I’m pretty wiped, if I’m being honest,” du Toit, 28, said over the phone from the airport in Santiago, Chile on Sunday night.

“Just a bunch of travel and long days. But you know what, you’ve got to try to strike while the iron is hot in this game.”

Well, the irons are hot right now — not to mention the rest of du Toit’s golf clubs.

Eight years removed from being the top story in Canadian sports one weekend when he contended right to the end of an RBC Canadian Open as a little-known amateur, du Toit will be the first to admit things have not exactly gone as planned on the golf course since those memorable four days at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.

But thanks to hard work, perseverance and the willingness to go wherever is needed to have a chance to further his career, du Toit is making real progress — and a spot on one of golf’s top tours finally feels within reach.

Du Toit, who grew up in Kimberley, B.C., entered the year with status on the Asian Tour and partial status on the Korn Ferry Tour after entering three qualifying schools — he didn’t earn any status at the DP World Tour qualifier. Not perfect by any means, but far better than anything he’s had since turning pro in 2017 — he has mostly been limited to the Canadian and Latin American tours along with some U.S.-based mini-tour events.

This past weekend, du Toit rocketed up the Korn Ferry Tour’s Chile Classic leaderboard with a 7-under 65 in the final round, good for a tie for eighth in his first KFT event this year. He came to Chile following three consecutive weeks on the Asian Tour — starting with a tie for seventh at the season-opening Malaysian Open after leading entering the final round. He then missed the cut in Oman and tied for 40th in New Zealand.

“Good golf makes it more fun,” said du Toit, who has called Scottsdale, Ariz. home for most of his time since finishing his NCAA career at Arizona State.

“I’m just so pumped to kind of have some opportunities at bigger tournaments. Coming out of the gate, I took advantage of the one (the 2016 Canadian Open, where he ended up tied for ninth), and I really haven’t had that many since. I’ve kind of been beating around on the mini tours for three, four, five years now. Now that I’m getting looks on bigger tours, I’m just trying to play as well as I can and not take any of them for granted.”

Back when he made his way to the Asian Tour opener in mid February with his girlfriend Raquel Olmos — they both played golf at Arizona State, and the Spanish-born Olmos has caddied for him at some tournaments) — du Toit had no idea what was coming next. His qualifying number was not good enough to guarantee him entry in Oman or New Zealand, so he booked one-way flights and crossed his fingers.

While in New Zealand, he was informed there was a spot for him in a Korn Ferry event in Argentina. He had to decline that invitation, but there was also a Korn Ferry opening in Chile — and du Toit took full advantage despite nearly 15 hours of air travel from New Zealand and a major time-change adjustment.

After Chile, he was headed across the world again to Macau for an Asian Tour event this week.

Again, there were no guarantees. He was the first alternate when his plane took off, but found out he was bumped into the field when he landed.

“He’s been travelling all over the world a million times, but his game’s good. So you want to go and play,” said Golf Canada coach Derek Ingram, who has worked with du Toit since his amateur days. “I think it’s important he does do that. It’s really impressive. You have to take care of your mind and body so well to be able to do that. To play well this week in Chile, that’s incredibly difficult.”

The good news is things can get far more promising and lucrative with the right results at the right time — for proof, just look at the resume of du Toit’s old college roommate, Jon Rahm.

The top-25 finish in Chile guarantees du Toit a spot at the next Korn Ferry Tour event in Savannah, Ga., starting April 4, after he takes a few days off at home to recharge the batteries. After that, he’s been told there’s a good chance he’ll get into a healthy chunk of upcoming Korn Ferry events by virtue of his place in the standings. That will give him a chance to earn a PGA Tour card, awarded to Korn Ferry’s top 30 players at season’s end.

You also have to think Golf Canada may give him a opportunity to take another shot at the Canadian Open, May 30-June 2 in Hamilton, with an exemption.

Meanwhile, the Asian Tour is affiliated with LIV Golf — and there also are promotion opportunities there, albeit in smaller numbers than for the PGA on the Korn Ferry circuit. A couple spots in the British Open also will be up for grabs at an Asian Tour event in Korea from June 20-23. Du Toit just missed grabbing a spot in his first career major in Malaysia, where the top three booked tickets for Royal Troon.

“Seeing different parts of the world, playing national opens, you get a lot of love. They are super fun to play,” du Toit said. “I don’t think I can just say I’m going to only focus on Korn Ferry (the rest of the season). Now if you talk to me in a week … maybe something will change. But some of those (Asian Tour) events are awesome. I’d love to play some more over there.”

More importantly, du Toit just wants to keep playing well.

Why has that been happening more often this year?

“It’s probably a combination of everything,” he said. “I feel like I’m more mature and my golf game and my skills, I just think have kind of gone up. My self belief has kind of gone up. Golf’s a weird game, but I’m trying to play as aggressive and as fearless as possible and that’s helping. I think my head is in a better space, and all my skills are in a better space. It took three, four, five years to kind of get there, but it’s been a nice little step for sure.”

Said Ingram: “I think just being super resilient over a period of time (has been key). He didn’t expect to be where he is right now. Certainly, one of the best amateurs in the world. When you have a top-10 at a PGA Tour event as an amateur, when you turn pro he doesn’t expect to be like one of his best friends Jon Rahm, but he certainly doesn’t expect to be toiling on PGA Tour Canada for the last bunch of years. Some of that is COVID, some of that is a little bit of bad luck, some of that is just not playing well enough. I’m really impressed with (du Toit) fighting and clawing and continuing to work. He’s finally starting to see a little daylight, which I’m thrilled for, for him.”

There were times over the past few years where du Toit admitted he had doubts about continuing to pursue his golf dream. Those close to him, he said, kept lifting his spirits when he wasn’t happy with his game.

There have been flashes — a 59 at an Outlaw Tour event in Arizona in 2020, and a PGA Tour Canada win in Calgary in 2021 — but just not enough consistency to take a step up.

“I believe Jared du Toit is a PGA Tour player,” Ingram said. “I believed that in 2014, believed that in 2016, and ’17, believed that in 2020 and ’22 and ’23 when (some people) may have thought he wasn’t even around anymore. Everyone’s journey is just a little bit different. The men’s professional game, it’s not easy. But I do think he’s gotten better.”

Golf, as du Toit noted, can be weird. Players peak at many different ages — Vijay Singh won his first major at 35, Mark O’Meara captured his only two majors at 41.

At 28, du Toit may not be a hot-shot pro prospect anymore. But he’s nowhere close to over the hill, either.

“You never know when it’s going to happen,” du Toit said before another long day and night of travel.

“You’ve kind of just got to keep your head down.”

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