Springbok hooker Schalk Brits on his love of golf and what he fears the most on the course, writes WADE PRETORIUS in Compleat Golfer.
How long have you been playing golf?
I started when I was 13 and I regret not starting earlier. I love this game. You can’t get cross with anyone but yourself. Even though I’m a rugby player, I think it’s probably the best game out. I love golf maybe even a little bit more than rugby.
What has been your most memorable golfing experience?
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was by far the best golf experience I’ve had. It’s quite something to play on those three courses; all of them are classic, so challenging and have so much history. It was a trip of a lifetime. The Old Course at St Andrews just edges them, but that’s only if I really had to choose.
What is your best score?
I was three under at Centurion in the UK, which remains a highlight. I also shot one under at the Old Course, but those scores don’t come around too often.
Which shots test you the most?
The most intimidating shot is when there’s water right and out of bounds left off the tee – like the 8th hole at Pearl Valley. The hardest shot? The 50m bunker shot; it’s known to be the toughest in golf, and it does live up to that name.
Do you think Tiger will win another Major?
I have got some cash on that to happen with some mates of mine back in the UK.
If you had the chance, would you be a professional golfer or a professional rugby player, and why?
I’ve done rugby [laughs], so if I could go back I would go pro golf, for sure. I’ve seen what Charl, Louis, Branden and the boys do. It’s pretty special. They are great guys and it looks like a healthy vibe out there on Tour. That’s something I’ve done, so yeah, pro golf for me.
Which teammates – South African or English – are better golfers?
Without a doubt, the South Africans! They’re better all-round sportsmen hands down. Also, there’s no comparison at the 19th hole with a guy like Schalk Burger, who could almost drink that many cold ones.
Is it easier to hit the ball straight or find your jumper in the lineout?
That’s a tough one – if you compare putting to throwing the ball, it’s much of a muchness. Both have some variables and timing issues, so it’s hard to choose which would be easier.
Which rugby player has the most potential as a golfer?
Schalk Burger – but he’s too busy to put in the effort that would improve his handicap quickly.
Who is the best teammate to have on the course?
Fourie du Preez – he’s still the guy who’s the most consistent and he always plays a great game.
Who would make up your dream fourball?
I’ve always been a massive Ernie Els fan, so he’s definitely in. Then Nelson Mandela. And how could I leave Tiger Woods out of that mix?
As a dad of three young boys, will any Brits youngsters be the next Big Easy?
I started my oldest at about two [he’s now six] but I wouldn’t say I’m pushing. For sure, I tried to get him into the game as young as possible, but we just have fun. It’s such a good way to spend time together and you’re outside, which is a plus.
Born in Empangeni and educated at Paul Roos, the hard-running hooker represented Western Province and the Lions at Currie Cup and Super Rugby level. Brits moved abroad in 2009 to join Saffa-laden Saracens, where he made an immediate impact and was voted the team’s Players’ Player of the Year. The following season he was named Man of the Match after Sarries won the Grand Final. Now 37, Brits is on the verge of another trip to the World Cup as he returns to South African rugby after a decade in the UK.
– This article first appeared in the December issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale!
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