Two friends shared a special round of golf when Randpark hosted its Els for Autism day, writes WADE PRETORIUS in Compleat Golfer.
Count-outs in golf can be cruel, but for friends Guim Vosloo and Freddie Berning, it meant victory and a place at the Els for Autism final at Highland Gate.
‘I only play once a month these days, but I did have a good day,’ says Vosloo, who owns the Albatross Driving Range in Roodepoort.
‘I don’t even hit balls all that often. The range is part of my work and you know what it’s like – when it’s work, it’s not always that fun.’
But how did he end up trading work for the pleasure of playing golf? ‘My friend is a massive Ernie fan and signs us up every year,’ says the one-handicapper. ‘It’s obviously for a really good cause, which makes the round even more enjoyable.’
The CMR member was thrilled with how the day ended up, never thinking that he would be on the winning side. ‘We had no idea we were in the running – not even at the last hole. It wasn’t until we handed in our card that someone hinted we might stand a chance, and that’s when we started getting really excited,’ he says.
The hint was correct, as they were on the right side of the count-out on 46 points.
Vosloo admits there was no secret formula to their success, even though he made four or five birdies on the day. ‘Yeah, I played quite nicely, but it was definitely a team effort. Freddie bailed us out on more than a couple of occasions, because I don’t think I broke par, despite my birdies. I’d say our dovetailing got us over the line.’
And plans for the final at Highland Gate? ‘I don’t think we’ll be doing anything differently. I’ll stick to playing my usual league matches and hope for the best.’
Berning is excited at the prospect of taking on the challenge of the Dullstroom course for the first time.
‘I’ve never been there, but apparently it’s a magnificent layout,’ he says. The winners of that day will be rewarded by spending some time with four-time Major winner Ernie Els – a massive incentive for Berning.
The only gripe between the winning combination? ‘Guim’s favourite player is Tiger Woods; that always annoyed me.
‘I’m a Big Easy man through and through, from the time I saw him fresh out of school on the winter tour with Retief Goosen,’ he says.
Berning recalls that day in the late ’80s like it was yesterday – from the crisp winter morning to TV presenter Arnold Geerdts and his two-man team doing the crossing – but especially seeing Els crush his drive over the trees on the 14th hole.
‘That’s the moment,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t believe it. He just stood there and hit his drive where no one else dared to – straight over the trees, cutting the dogleg in half and setting up an eagle chance.’
It’s been 30-something years, but the Big Easy is still attraction No 1. ‘If he isn’t playing, I don’t watch, even if he’s had a rough time at the Majors recently.’
Berning is inspired by how Els, a sporting role model for over two decades, never lets anything sway him. ‘He’s been through it all and still remains a great guy. Just look at how he dealt with that six-putt at The Masters, not to mention the wonderful work he’s doing for kids with disabilities. He’s an inspiration for us all.’
Meeting Els would be a dream come true, with Berning full of questions for the icon. ‘He’s a legend of SA sport.
I think I might be a bit star-struck.’ He happily admits that he’d rather caddie for Els and join him at the 19th than play a round. ‘I don’t think my game would hold up under that kind of environment, so it would be much easier to just walk alongside him.’
No matter what happens at Highland Gate, Berning and Vosloo are committed to next year’s event; it’s become a ritual for the pair.
‘It’s my birthday week and that’s the round I look forward to the most. The missus knows that my day is sorted and I always have a great time.’
HOW CAN READERS HELP?
Els for Autism funds its centre mainly through golf days, which form part of the ‘Els for Autism Drive to the SA Open’. You can enter these golf days:
14 September: Fancourt members
28 September: Mount Edgecombe CC
20 October: Silver Lakes
26 October: Ebotse Links
2-3 November: Highland Gate (final)
– This article first appeared in the August issue of Compleat Golfer