He has five victories on the Sunshine Tour now, and he’s one of the most well liked professionals amongst his peers.
But there were times when the youngster was really just moments away from trying to hop onto the next plane to his home country.
He’d been befriended by Zimbabwean tobacco tycoon Andy Edmondson at a golf course in his home town just north of Rio de Janeiro: “After school over there, there was a golf course near our home and I used to go and caddie there,” said Da Silva.
The friendship between the two grew, and Edmondson recognised the talent in the youngster as time wore on. “A couple of years later, he invited me to come to Zimbabwe,” remembered Da Silva. “I just left everything behind. I didn’t think twice.”
In a place where he couldn’t speak the language, he soon found refuge in the one place that was intelligible to him. “I came straight to Royal Harare,” he said.
“I used to live just across the park here. I used to get here at 6 o’clock in the mornings and spend the whole day here. From six to six.
“Luckily, there were some youngsters who I could talk a bit of English with and learn a bit from them,” he recalled. “I used to study a lot, so I could at least have some sort of a conversation. But for the first year or two, it was very hard. Andy used to travel a lot so I was really by myself. I used to spend a lot of time at the course.”
Of course, the whole idea was for him to play golf, and he soon caught the eye of what has always been a good Zimbabwean network of players and coaches. When he met Tim Price (Nick Price’s elder brother), he had settled into his own way of playing. “When I got here, I was playing off a two handicap and I was hitting the ball pretty good — good enough to score in my own way,” he said.
But it was time for some lessons. “My first lesson was with Tim,” he said. “It was pretty hard, because I had never had a lesson before and making changes was very difficult.
“Only after a while could I really understand. English was part of the problem there,” he said as he remembered the despair of trying to cope with a swing restructured.
“It took a while. After the lessons, I couldn’t really play. Everything seemed so different… holding the club, and swinging the club… it was devastating,” he remembered.
“I couldn’t play and I just had to practice and I couldn’t really talk with anyone about it. I really felt like going back because it was a nightmare. But it slowly started to get better.”
It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a good career for Da Silva. “I went to South Africa and I played some amateur events there. And I turned professional soon after that in 1994.”
Of course, turning pro meant more lessons, and once again, he found himself in a state of despair as the swing was rebuilt once more. But, in typical fashion, he was willing to put in the hard yards. “I worked as a waiter at night and practiced during the day,” he said.
He didn’t make an immediate impact on the Sunshine Tour, but, by the time the 1995-96 season rolled to a close, he had hoisted himself into the top 50 of the Order of Merit with a season that included to second-place finishes, including one at the San Lameer SA Masters.
He got his first of five victories in the following season, winning the Leopard Rock Classic and following that in short order with victory in the Nashua Wild Coast Sun Challenge. His latest win was at last year’s SAA Pro-Am Invitational at Prince’s Grant in KwaZulu-Natal, and his best year on the Sunshine Tour was 2007, where he came sixth on the Order of Merit.
And now he finds himself having gone almost full circle, back at Royal Harare Golf Club for the Zimbabwe Open. “I finished fifth in the Zimbabwe Open once as an amateur,” he said.
And, of course, he has something of a home ground advantage: “The course is a bit different now. The greens are better, and it’s a bit longer after the Nick Price redesign.
But he battled in his opening nine in the first round, with three bogeys on his opening nine.
The fighting spirit which brought him all the way from Brazil soon re-emerged, as he rushed round his second nine in six-under-par 30.
He was back in contention. — Sunshinetour.