Nearly a decade after making his Sunshine Tour breakthrough, Louis de Jager is ready to fire again, writes MIKE GREEN in Compleat Golfer.
Nick Bester won the Comrades Marathon in 1991 and finished second three times. No, you’re not reading the wrong magazine!
Bester is also Louis de Jager’s father-in-law, and De Jager has just completed one of his best years on the Sunshine Tour. He finished inside the top 10 on the Order of Merit for the second time and he came awfully close to winning his first big tournament when he finished fourth at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
There’s a consistency to his game now, which is particularly satisfying after the promise he showed when he won his first Sunshine Tour title – the Suncoast Classic at Durban Country Club – in 2009 when he was just 22. He’s won twice more on the Tour since then, in 2014, at the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at the Wild Coast Sun and the Nedbank Affinity Cup at Lost City before the Nedbank Golf Challenge that year.
And where does the man they called ‘Yster Bester’, the ‘Iron Man’, ‘Ultraman’ and ‘Comrade Nick’ fit into all of this?
- 3 – His number of tournament victories – the 2009 Suncoast Classic, and the 2014 Vodacom Origins – Wild Coast and Nedbank Affinity Cup
- 7 – His highest placing on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, in 2013. As at 12 March 2018 he was eighth
- 55 – His score, one over par, at the 2014 Vodacom Origins Par 3 event at the Wild Coast Sun, where he finished fourth
- 63 – Lowest round of his career, in the first round of the 2014 Vodacom Origins at the Wild Coast Sun
- R1.2million – The biggest cheque of his career, in rands, from his third-place finish at the 2013 Tshwane Open
- R6.4 million – Career prize money, in rands, earned since turning professional
Well, son-in-law De Jager has had the chance to absorb first-hand some of the lessons that can be learned from someone who had one of the strongest minds in sport, and who, even now, can teach youngsters a thing or two about being in good shape.
‘Golf is totally different to his sport, but success comes down to the same thing,’ says De Jager. ‘You’ve got to have patience, belief and real determination … you can make a long list of the similarities.
‘I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s told me many stories about how he approached things. I like to get some knowledge from him. Maybe in the beginning, there was a bit of pressure. But as time goes on, the relationship just gets better and better.
And it’s a real benefit to my career.
‘Every time he sees me, he asks if I trained and what I did. He just wants to know if I’ve done my bit. Because he believes whatever I do will help me – it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s fitness-related. So now, holidays are much better for my golf, because I’m always running, or doing something. When I get back on the course, I’m quite sharp and fit.’
The learning experience has changed the way De Jager addresses different aspects of his game. ‘I’ve changed my approach to fitness for golf,’ he says. ‘Previously, I just wanted to look good, or do all the things you see in magazines. Now I’m working with Gavin Groves at HPC and
he’s doing a great job with me. We have set up nice structures. I also follow a lot of the top guys and see what they’re doing. So I’m up to date with the trends in training for golf.’
De Jager has also changed a few other things. ‘We’re working on the same thing consistently,’ he says. ‘That’s brought a lot of structure to my game. I’ve got a plan I’m working to and sticking with, and that’s definitely improved my consistency.’
That consistency has reaped rewards. His fourth-place finish in Mauritius was his best finish at the Sunshine Tour’s big tournaments since his third place at the 2013 Tshwane Open. ‘Mauritius was very satisfying. I’d worked quite hard during the winter so it was nice to end it off with
a good finish,’ he says.
And that has fuelled a push for a victory at one of the big events, as well as a renewal of the desire to play the game on a bigger stage. ‘A win in one of the big co-sanctioned events is very important,’ he says. ‘That’s why I wake up every morning and why I practise. It’s a goal to go a long way in golf, so the results I’m seeing encourage me to keep on working hard and sticking to the plan.
‘With my young family, it might make it quite tough if I get my Tour card and have to travel, but I can’t wait to see how to fit everything in! The concern is in the back of my mind, but we’ll cross that bridge once we get there.’
Crossing bridges when they appear in his life is one thing he does better than when he won as a 22-year-old. ‘I was very young and inexperienced, so I didn’t take some things as seriously as I should have,’ he says. ‘Now it’s nice having a family and being more focused on what you want to do and what you need to do.
‘I think everything had to fall into place – a few things had to happen. But it’s never too late. Luckily in golf, everyone peaks at a different time. Your lifespan is also a bit longer in this game, so I’ve got lots of time and my best golf is still ahead of me.
‘It’s a matter of keeping all the things together. My misses have been much smaller. I’ve always had good shots, but with the misses in the right areas, I can make better scores. My ball striking has improved tremendously, as has my putting. I’ve always been a good short-game player. I need to keep working on my long game, but it’s nice to be able to fall back on my steady short game.’
Knowing his strengths and weaknesses is another sign of maturity. ‘I’m only just above average off the tee,’ De Jager says. ‘Average on Tour is probably between 280 and 290m. I actually feel I hit it the perfect distance. I can reach all par fives and I hit it quite straight. You always want a little more distance, but it’s not necessary, not something I need to do. As your mechanics improve and as my swing evolves, when
I hit one well, it goes a bit further.
‘I don’t get frustrated when I’m up against guys who can hit it 340. There are other ways to gain strokes, and that’s where my short game and pitching come in. I can gain more by hitting it closer and making a few more putts than hitting it long.’
The long game was what Bester was in. And it’s also what his son-in-law Louis de Jager is in.
2008 – Seekers Travel Pro-Am (T3rd)
2009 – Suncoast Classic (1st), BMG Classic (T3rd)
2010 – Vodacom Business – Stellenbosch (T4th), SAA Invitational Pro-Am – Prince’s Grant (T4th)
2011 – Lombard Insurance Classic (3rd), Northern Cape Classic (T3rd), Vodacom Origins Final (T2nd)
2012 – Vodacom Origins – Simola (T3rd), Vodacom Origins – De Zalze (T4th)
2013 – Tshwane Open (3rd)
2014 – Vodacom Origins – Wild Coast (1st), Nedbank Affinity Cup (1st)
2016 – Zimbabwe Open (T3rd), Sun Fish River Challenge (T3rd)
2017 – Vodacom Origins – Zimbali (2nd), AfrAsia Mauritius Open (4th)
– This article first appeared in the April issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale!