OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Dawie van der Walt shot a career-best 8-under 63 Saturday and moved into a tie for 13th place heading into Sunday's final round of the Midwest Classic. He is at 13-under par at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate and has a chance to contend for a top-5 finish.
The story on Saturday was not about his six birdies and one eagle. Nor was it about the fact that he hit all 14 fairways and all 18 greens in regulation.
Van der Walt arrived on the 10th tee moments before his name was called for a 9:50 a.m. tee time. He had rushed to the tee, barefoot, carrying his shoes, socks and a belt after changing from shorts to pants in the middle of the street adjacent to the tee. His caddie met him and the two counted to make sure he had enough clubs (he had 14) and golf balls (he had 5). Somebody handed him a breakfast sandwich and off he went.
Van der Walt was a bit rattled after a back-and-forth journey to Texas that had him sleeping on the flooring of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport Friday night.
After posting scores of 70-67 in the first two rounds he was at 5-under par and heading for a weekend at home. With scores getting lower and lower by the minute, the 28-year old South African figured there were enough players still on the course and the cut would eventually move to 6-under par 136.
So rather than wait around to make it official, he boarded a flight and was headed home to the Houston area, via Dallas.
He picks up the story from there:
"I thought there was no way I was going to make this cut otherwise I would have never gotten on that plane in the first place.
"I got to Dallas and checked my phone and saw the scores and couldn't believe it. My coach called and told me I made the cut. There was no way.
"I got to Dallas and got lucky that I got my clubs because they were checked all the way to Houston. I talked to so many people and they all said they'd go get my clubs but then there's one lady who goes out to get them! The plane was about to push back. She comes back with my clubs and my clothes.
"To get my clubs in the first place was a miracle. I took a cab to the other airport, DFW. I flew to Love Field. I book a flight for 10 o'clock, 10:20, so I thought I had plenty of time. I get there and the flight is delayed by an hour because of weather from Washington. The flight comes in and they saw they have to clean the plane. We sit there for 40 minutes more and we take off at midnight.
"We're flying here and the pilot comes on says that some storms have moved in but it looks like there's a break and we're going to try and land. I can see the plane's nose is higher than the tail and I'm thinking this is not good. The next minute he comes on and tells us we're going back to Dallas. We were right here, just south of the city but he said something about an accident in Little Rock where nine people died or something and so we head back.
"They had Wi-fi on the plane so I'm looking for flights again. I knew I couldn't drive and make it in time. I bought another flight that would get in at 9 o'clock ... I was already at DFW and didn't want to go back to the other airport so I figured I'd take my chances with this one, which gets in at 8:45.
"I slept on the floor in front of the gate because there was no way I was going to miss that flight in the morning. Right there on the floor. I wasn't going to go to a hotel and risk something so I stayed right there on the floor for about two hours.
"Luckily this plane is on time today and I'm looking for my bags. My golf bag is the very last bag to come out. I thought it I could get my clubs off early I could make it with a good 10 minutes to spare. Ten past nine my clubs come out. Now I have 40 minutes to get here. Luckily my friend Scott, who I'm staying with, was right there waiting for me. He came to the airport last night and then came back this morning. He was stuck in the storm last night and was parked under a bridge waiting.
"I got in the car and we followed some kind of cop that was speeding all the way. We got here a minute before. I changed from my shorts into pants right there on the street, grabbed some shoes and socks and ran to the tee.
"It was crazy. Who leaves when you have a chance to make a cut? The players are so good out here and from the last few tournaments, the cut keeps going lower and lower. You think it's going to be 5-under and it always goes to 6 and almost 7. It's always lower than you think it is. I didn't think there was any way I'd make it. It was going to move to six. I saw there were 20 guys at 5 so somebody must have screwed up yesterday coming in. I heard the wind was blowing but that shouldn't matter. It's a wide-open course and guys are still going to make birdies out here.
"Lesson to be learned -- stay and grind it out but we haven't been home in three and a half weeks and we just moved into a new house. I've slept there one night and I kind of wanted to go back and see this house. It was just stupid on my part and I guess it all worked out for the best.
"Here I am."
Van der Walt kept moving up the leaderboard without the benefit of any warm-up. No range balls. No practice. No stretching. Nothing. Just hit it and chase it.
"I've been playing well and I kind of know where the ball is going, it's just a matter of getting the putter going without hitting any putts. Maybe not warming up with the putter helped," he said. "It's a crazy game."