If you love golf, as former Proteas cricketer Pat Symcox does, the KZN South Coast is the place to be, writes GARY LEMKE in Compleat Golfer.
How’s your game and where do you play?
My home course is Port Shepstone, but we’re spoilt for choice around the KZN South Coast. There are such good courses, like Selborne, ‘Sheppie’, San Lameer, Southbroom and Wild Coast Sun, and the weather is usually great – although not always, as I’ll explain shortly. I’m a seven-handicap; I used to be as low as a four, but believe me, off a seven I can still take a few rands off visitors from up-country when they come to play down here.
How often do you play and how competitive are you?
I probably play once a week, but have been blessed to have hosted plenty of golf days, probably about 500, around the country. When I was young and feisty I thought I could clear every tree and miss every bunker, but as I’ve got older I’ve learned to manage my game better. I still hit a long ball, but now it’s about managing the risk and my game. It’s not about taking things on with every shot any more. Having said that, not so long ago I played with Polly [Shaun Pollock] and we played against Zulu [Lance Klusener] and Jonty [Rhodes]. There was plenty testosterone out there!
How did golf help you with adjusting to life after cricket?
I really missed the competitive nature of cricket, but then I started playing league golf, which helped bridge the divide. You can tell the difference between someone who plays or has played league, and someone who hasn’t. I’d encourage any young guy looking to get into the game to play league. And I can assure you that if someone is a single-figure handicapper at Durban Country Club, they’re a damn good golfer, given the course.
Who would your ideal fourball partners be?
I’d really like to play with Ernie Els and I think it would be special to have a walk with him and just chat in general. Donald Trump would be there because I’d like to hear what he has to say about the world! And Richard Branson, from an entrepreneurial and business perspective. I once batted with him, but would love to have five hours in his company on the golf course.
What is your favourite Major to watch?
The Open Championship when it’s at St Andrews is pretty special, but I prefer the US Open. They play on a different course every year, and I just think the whole TV experience is the best of the four.
And when it comes to the 19th hole?
Ah, the beers and banter. I suppose I can only go from past experience, so I’d include Dick Muir of rugby fame, [media personality] Darren Scott, who is always good value, and Steven Jack, who is a typical fast bowler and doesn’t stand back when it comes to anything!
Have you ever had a hole-in-one?
As a matter of fact, yes. It’s quite an interesting story. It came on the 10th hole at Scottburgh, which is only about 110m, but it was in the most atrocious weather. It was pouring down and our fourball went off at the 10th, which was our first for the day. And I made a hole-in-one. But, because of the rules, we had to finish all 18 holes for it to be made official and on some holes we were putting around puddles. I’m certain we were the only fourball to play the round. Most checked in almost straight away because of the weather.
Pat Symcox was one of the most competitive cricketers of his generation. He represented South Africa in 20 Tests, from 1993 to 1998, and memorably scored his only Test century as a No 10 batsman against Pakistan in 1998, putting on 195 runs with Mark Boucher for the ninth wicket. He also took 37 Test wickets. Born in Kimberley, he moved to Durban, where he became a Natal Dolphins stalwart. An off-spinner, he also took 72 ODI wickets from 80 matches, playing his last match against New Zealand in 1999. Symcox is now a broker and owner at RE/MAX Coast and Country on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
– This article first appeared in the August issue of Compleat Golfer