Butch James, the Springbok Rugby World Cup winner from 2007, epitomises the lure of golf: fun, competition and friendships, writes WADE PRETORIUS in Compleat Golfer.
What’s the state of your game at the moment?
Ag, you know how it goes. I don’t play nearly enough golf – maybe twice a month at best and then it’s mostly corporate days, so there isn’t much time for social rounds with mates. But I’m planning on changing that this year.
And your handicap?
I’m a three, but I wouldn’t consider it a true three. You have one good round and you get chopped immediately, but it takes forever to go up again. I’m not a very good putter, but I recently changed my flat stick so I’m hoping that part of my game will improve quickly.
Where do you consider home?
My home course is Mount Edgecombe and it’s a great track. However, my best score of 69 came at Royal Durban, so that course has some special memories for me.
How much golf were you able to play during your time with the Springboks?
We probably played more on tour than we did back home. Just about every Wednesday we would have a game, and it was usually backs against forwards – myself and Jean de Villiers vs Schalk Burger and John Smit. It was always close, even if it descended into Schalk against me most of the time.
So John struggles on the course then?
Yes – but he’s always there to have a good time. He loves to take the driver out and give it a good smack, no matter how the hole is laid out. We spend a large chunk of the round looking for his balls, but still have plenty of laughs.
And have you ever tried to give your former captain some advice?
I have thought about it, but then remembered a pro-am John played where he asked Doug McGuigan for some tips with his big fade. Dougie told him to aim further left, so I think if the pros can’t help him, I definitely can’t.
Best Springbok golfer?
Everyone knows Fourie du Preez is really good. I’d also put Andre Pretorius up there.
If you had to pick one pro to break par in the final round of a Major to save your life, who would it be?
Wow, that’s a tough question … I think I’d have to go for Rory McIlroy. I love the way he plays, he’s nice and aggressive and always goes for it. He hits the ball a mile and I back him to break par more often that not.
So, Rory makes your dream fourball then?
Of course! And Ernie Els is the other obvious choice – I’d love a round with those two. Valentino Rossi would be my fourth. I reckon it would be a really fun round.
Who would win in a Ryder Cup-style match between the Boks and the Proteas?
Wouldn’t that be a great contest! Someone should definitely try to organise that. If it was six on six,it would be pretty close, but in a full Ryder Cup-style match, maybe the cricketers have just a little more in the tank than we do.
Tell us about your SuperSport Shootout experience.
It was lots of fun, but I feel sorry for Lance Sherrell, who had to carry for me for most of the weekend. My putting was awful and poor Lance, who plays off one, had no chance of being in the prizes with me on his side.