Proteas fast bowler, Morne Morkel, talks about watching The Masters while on IPL duty, going to school with Charl Schwartzel and playing in a fourball of left-handers.
What is your handicap?
I’ve gone out to a 13 and my lowest has been nine. I haven’t been able to play as much as I would like to because of my back injury and then I got a side strain, so since I’ve been living in Cape Town I haven’t taken advantage of the courses. But off a 13 I’m a terrible putter. I hit a good long ball, but then ruin all the work when I get on the green. I read the instructions in magazines like Compleat Golfer to get tips on how to get better. I literally buy the magazine and go straight to the instructions. One needs to practise to improve and I don’t practise enough.
How did you start playing golf?
I grew up in a sporting family. My two brothers, Malan and Albie, and my dad, Albert, and I were pretty competitive among ourselves. We played cricket in the backyard but also a bit of golf, which I enjoyed. The interesting thing is that all of us are left-handers and I don’t know how often you’ve seen a fourball of left-handers, but that’s the Morkels!
Given that you’re 1.96m tall and left-handed, you can’t just walk into your local Pro Shop and pick out a set of clubs, can you?
[Laughs] Not exactly. I have custom-made TaylorMade irons that are just a little longer than the ones you normally get. Ping makes great putters and I think I need to get my hands on one of those if I’m to start taking shots off my scorecard on the greens.
You follow a few golfers on Twitter, one of them being Charl Schwartzel. Any particular reason?
Actually, Charl and I were in the same class together at Hoërskool Vereeniging up to Grade 11. His parents then took him out of school to do home schooling. The headmaster told us, ‘Schwartzel is going to regret not coming back to class.’ The next year, Charl’s brother was in one of the lower grades and I was in matric, and the next thing we knew, there was Charl arriving to pick up his brother in a sponsored Mercedes. So much for regret!
Do you have a favourite Major?
Definitely The Masters. It’s up there on my bucket list. I just love everything about the tournament – the tradition, the buildup, the week itself, the course and the fact it’s the first Major of the year. It also takes place while the IPL is on. Often, after we’ve played a night match, the golf comes on TV after midnight [India time] and a group of us sit back with a beer and a pizza to watch.
Who is the best golfer in the Proteas side?
I need to think. It depends on who is on top of his game and although he has slipped a bit, I reckon AB might be the one I’d stick my house on to make a par for me at any last hole. But, it would have to be a cheap house! There were some better golfers a couple of years ago. Jacques Kallis has now got his handicap down to a one, but he’s always been good and competitive, and then there was Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock. Polly and I actually teamed up in a competition and before we went off, I said to him, ‘I think we’ll do well today. We can win this.’ Well, it was one of the worst golfing days I’ve ever had and I felt so bad afterwards because I’d let Polly down.
What local and international courses have you most enjoyed playing?
The first one that springs to mind is Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. It’s a par 71, but a lovely course. The Belfry, which is in the English Midlands, is another that has been a memorable experience. In South Africa one of my favourites is Leopard Creek, although, unlike Jacques Kallis, I’m not a member! In the Cape I enjoy Stellenbosch Golf Club and Pearl Valley, and I’m still waiting for an invite from Jacques to play at Steenberg and Westlake.
Have you ever hit a hole-in-one?
No, and you’re not going to believe this … I was playing at my home course, which is Silver Lakes, and I hit a great tee shot on the 179m 13th hole, which is a stroke five. It stopped this short, about 30cm, going straight at the flag. Guess what … I missed the putt. I told you I’m a terrible putter.
– This article first appeared in the January issue of Compleat Golfer