A life-threatening cancer hasn’t dulled the 12-time world surfski champion’s zest for golf, writes GARY LEMKE.
What is your standout golfing experience?
As a player, it was winning the betterball team event at the 2012 MTN SuperSport Shootout with Riyadh Peer at Zimbali. We won by three shots and all the players are treated like royalty. From the other side of the fence it was watching the comeback of Tiger winning The Masters in 2019. That was just incredible.
Have you been able to get back on to the course after your cancer treatment?
Late last year I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer and I’ve had extensive treatment and am now in recovery. I have just started swinging the golf club slowly while I wait for my clubs to arrive from Ernie [laughs].
How did you get started in the game?
I started playing golf in 1989 after I was banned from the World Surfski Championships in Hawaii due to the sporting boycott. I had won the event seven times in a row. So I took up golf and I went from a 24-30 handicap to scratch inside a year. In December 1990, I was playing with Graham Beck at Royal Cape and he said if I could break par at Clovelly CC over the next five days, he would pay for my wife Clare, my son Luke and I to go to David Leadbetter for a year’s worth of golf lessons. But his mother died and all bets were off.
What is your handicap and what’s your best round?
I haven’t played a round of golf since my diagnosis so it still an 11. My best round is a three-under-par gross 69.
What are some of the best courses you’ve played around the world?
I have played on some great private courses. One of the best is Nanea Golf Club in Hawaii. It’s said to be close to Augusta National in terms of its exclusivity and the perfection of its conditioning.
South Africa has plenty great courses …
Undoubtedly! I particularly love Fancourt as it has the three different courses – Fancourt, Montagu and The Links, which is my favourite.
Do you watch much golf on TV?
I spend a lot of time watching golf, but there’s a special slot for The Masters and The Open Championship. Those two Majors simply can’t be missed, so I’m glad The Masters is being held later in the year, rather than not at all for 2020.
Have you ever seen anyone cheat on the golf course?
Yes, I suppose all of us who play the game quite often will have come across cheating. In my experience I like to think it’s because the golfer doesn’t know the rules properly. I have always approached the situation as a joke and see how they respond to being pulled up.
Over the years who have you played most rounds of golf with?
When I was in Durban I had a regular school where we played nine holes at Royal Durban every Tuesday. We had a group of about 15 guys. The most rounds of golf have been with my brother Herman, Sean McCarthy, Len Nel and Richard Barrow.
You were part of South Africa’s 1992 Olympic team in Barcelona. Have you played golf with any of your ex-teammates from that vintage?
Yes, I have played with a few mates from that squad over the years. But I still don’t think golf – or tennis for that matter – should be in the Olympics. Golfers and tennis players have their own Majors and Grand Slams to play for each year, so I don’t see why they should also get a bite at the Olympics every four years. There’s also the money aspect. The golfers make a fortune winning Majors as it is.
Who would complete your dream fourball?
I’d like to team up with Ernie and we’d definitely take the cash off Fred Couples and Tiger. Tiger is the only guy I don’t know, but it would be great to play with him.