Albie Morkel may have recently retired from hitting it a long way on the cricket field, but the Proteas and Titans all-rounder still plans to bomb a ball a long, long way, writes LUNGANI ZAMA.
The powerful left-hander made a name for himself as a player capable of clearing any boundary, and he transferred that power on to the many golf courses he has visited during his numerous T20 assignments around the world.
Morkel has always been competitive, with backyard cricketing duels with his brother Morne sparking two wonderful careers. On the golf course, Albie is just as entertaining – and he is always keen to sneak a round when the time allows.
While turning out for the Durban Heat recently, he was part of a much-hyped betterball match, pairing up with Vernon Philander and taking on Temba Bavuma and this journalist. After a slow start, when the wind at Durban Country Club took issue with his high cut, Morkel and Philander finished strong to steal the money on the 17th hole.
As Morkel begins a new chapter as assistant coach for the Namibian team, he is sure to find a track to keep his game tidy in Windhoek. As long as the wind doesn’t blow.
When did you start playing golf?
My first golf game was in Standard 5 [Grade 7]. Before that I’d hit balls in the backyard and the driving range. My dad had an ancient set of golf clubs – Bobby Locke blades – so my first memory of trying to find the middle of the club was not a very good one.
What’s the best course you’ve played?
I’ve been lucky to travel around the world through cricket, and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand has definitely stuck in the memory. Leopard Creek is also a great facility and I had a wonderful experience at The Links at Fancourt.
Who are the best cricketing golfers you’ve ever known?
Definitely Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis.
Given your ability to hit prodigious lengths, do you prefer a quality iron shot or a nice chip or putt?
Definitely a nice chip or putt. I always try to hit the ball hard and long, so my touch game is a bit below par. When I get it right, it’s always an awesome feeling.
Cricketers are known for working in partnerships, so who was your regular golf partner at the Titans? Did you always take the money?
Myself and Henry Davids make a mean combo. You can’t beat a left- and right-hand combination. We also enjoyed taking money from Mark Boucher and Chris Morris.
Some of your cricket shots have gone so far they looked like golf shots. Do you get a bigger rush of adrenalin with a huge drive than a massive six?
I love catching a sweet drive, but I have always enjoyed a massive six. There is nothing like it.
Your brother Morne always talks up his own game. Can you clear it up – who is the best golfer in the family?
Ha, that’s not even a question. Morne has his moments, but they’re few and far between. Batters are always better golfers.
Given the choice, do you prefer coastal golf or a course in the bushveld?
Firstly, I’m a fair-weather golfer. I hit a high ball, so the coastal courses with the wind blowing test my ability and limited skill. So I would definitely say I prefer the bush.
Why do you think cricketers enjoy the game of golf so much?
It is very social, and of course there is the element of competition that goes with it. There’s always something riding on a game and there are plenty of bragging rights flying around the dressing room.
If you could pick three players from any sport to make the perfect fourball, who would they be?
That is an easy one. I would go for the biggest ringers I know – Gerald Dros, Breyton Paulse and Heinrich Klaasen. Believe me, we would be unbeatable.
Who is your favourite golfer of all time?
Ernie Els. What he has done in the game is unbelievable. And he is a wonderful man.
Finally, have you had any holes-in-one yet? Have you got close?
No. I put myself under too much pressure. I’ve often felt good standing over the ball at many par-threes. But I have a habit of announcing to my group that a hole-in-one is coming up, and then I don’t even scare the hole. I’m gonna let the club do the talking from now on.
He recently retired from cricket at the age of 37 after a distinguished career that saw him play one Test, 58 ODIs and 50 T20Is for South Africa. In his only Test innings he hit 58 against Australia. Morkel made 1 400 runs for his country and took 77 wickets from a combined 109 appearances. A left-handed batsman and right-arm medium-fast bowler, he also played IPL, County Cricket and had a spell in the Caribbean.