We talk to the now-retired Proteas hockey goalkeeper who is determined to spend a lot more time on the golf course.
When did you start playing golf and when did you know you were hooked?
I always fiddled around with mates as a youngster, but it was more just a holiday activity when mom kicked us out of the house. I bought my first ‘real’ set of golf clubs when I was 23 (Ping Zings) and I was given a driver by ex-pro Nico van Rensburg that is still in my bag. It is my old faithful … long and sometimes straight. I’ve always been hooked, but I battled to find the time to play between work and hockey. In saying that, any excuse was a good excuse to get on to the course.
Where is your home club and what is your handicap?
My home club is the Wanderers and I play off a 16 … I blame it on my putter!
How often do you get to play golf?
During Covid I managed to play at least once a week until our Olympic programme started. Now that I’m retired I’m playing at least three times a month … so last month went well. My eldest daughter Nina (11) has also taken to golf and she plays every Tuesday with her school at CCJ. On weekends she loves it when I take her to Serengeti to play the Par-3 course, this adds a lot of enjoyment to my golf too. I’m also part of a passionate and avid golfing WhatsApp group.
I imagine you’d have to have a few screws loose to want to become a hockey goalie. Does this extend to your golfing playing style – or are you more conservative on the course?
I have no doubt that I have many screws loose – jumping in front of hockey balls that are flying at 300km/h. So, fear is not a thing for me on the course and I go with the ‘grip it and rip it’ tactic all the time. Maybe that’s why my handicap is not really getting better.
Did many of your international teammates play golf? Who are the best players?
Yes, for sure. This is our retirement game. We always say golf season starts in October, as that’s when the hockey season ends. They are all ringers. Our captain Tim Drummond will rock up with a mixed set of clubs and still shoot a 76 after claiming he hasn’t played in 17 years!
What is the best thing about golf?
It is just to get out and enjoy the openness and beauty of the courses. It takes my mind off things because you must concentrate in this game. We are lucky we have so many magnificent courses in SA. It is a game for everyone and the fairest game. You can play against a much lower handicapper than yourself and still beat them. Also, the 19th is always a treat.
What is your favourite golfing event to watch and who are your favourite players?
I love watching The Masters. It is my dream to walk around Augusta. I love the SA guys. Ernie was my hero as a kid. Since Louis got an Instagram account, he has become my favourite. I love his post-match presentations and drinking songs on his jet with the other guys. Crazy talented, fearless and a true South African! For international players, I must say Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm. There’s just something about their passion for the game. Rahm, for me, is the best at the moment and he is so humble at the same time.
What are your favourite clubs in your bag?
My driver and my pitching-wedge. I’m in trouble if my driver doesn’t come off on the day. I do scramble quite well out of the rough but I’ve had to get used to that over the years.
What are your favourite SA courses?
Highland Gate and Gary Player CC. Highland Gate is one of the most beautiful courses you will see in the world. It is crazy difficult if you just want to moer it, like me, but it has best and most peaceful views you will see. The course is also stunning. As a youngster, growing up in Rustenburg, we never missed the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Walking around the course with the pros as a kid and seeing how easy they made it look was a treat. I try to play Gary Player at least three times a year.
Have you played much golf abroad?
I played a few courses in the US on the East Coast and I was amazed how kikuyu grass makes our lives a nightmare in SA. I enjoyed The Golf Course at Glen Mills. The back nine is in the middle of the woods and has the most beautiful fairways.
What is your greatest golfing achievement?
Winning a golf day in Durban! That doesn’t happen very often in Durbs!
Have you played in any pro-ams? Who are some of the more interesting people (or pros) you have played with?
I enjoyed playing once with Keith Horne. I’ve also played with some of the old-timers like Don Gammon and Nico van Rensburg. I had a lot of fun at Mount Edgecombe once with Garcia’s caddie, Mike Kerr.
What’s the funniest (or strangest) moment you’ve had on the golf course?
There’s never a dull moment when you play with Toks van der Linde. I remember playing with him at the Sanlam Cancer Challenge at Gary Player. On the last hole he took his shoes off, acted like he was fainting and asked his caddie to carry him back to the clubhouse. There was an instant resignation from the caddie!
– Interview by Brendan Barratt
– This article first appeared in the January 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!