South Africa’s leading horse racing trainer tells us about his attitude to golf, competition on the golf course and who he would invite to a day at the races.
When did you first pick up a golf club, and what was the motivation for it?
On holiday in my early 20s, I was having a few beers with friends at the local Bush Pub on the Breede River which had a tee box with a marker across the river. Needless to say, I paid for all the drinks that night but my love for golf was born.
How often do you play?
I play as often as my horses allow me to. I am a member at Westlake in Cape Town – a very friendly and affordable club.
What is your handicap?
My horses and playing polo has limited my handicap to around 16 – on a good day!
You’re a competitive sportsman and you’re also not short of banter. Does this personality extend to the golf course?
Who doesn’t like beating a mate on the golf course? The banter and abuse on some of my golf WhatsApp groups can be relentless, so you need to make certain you leave the club a winner!
Do you have any views on the PGA Tour and the LIV split?
I believe that competition is healthy, and everyone has the right of choice. I thoroughly enjoy watching tournaments on both circuits.
What would be the next course to play, on the top of your priority list?
Definitely Leopard Creek.
If you could invite a fourball to spend the day with Snaith Racing on a big race day, who would they be?
Gary Player, Tiger Woods, Bill Murray and Rory Mcllroy.
Who are the best golfers that you have played with – and the worst?
Gary Player is an honour to play with and I had the privilege of playing with the young and talented Wilco Nienaber at the recent Jonsson Workwear 2022 Open. The most over-handicapped I have played, would be Lance Sherrell!
Do you have time to watch much golf on TV?
Technology allows me to watch golf while I work with my horses and the coverage is awesome – one of the reasons the sport is so popular. I hope horse racing in South Africa can follow suit soon.
You are the leading trainer in South Africa. Have you had many owners who have played golf at a serious level?
There seems to be a close relationship between golfers and horse racing. I train quite a few horses for Gary Player and have trained for the likes of Lee Westwood.
There is quite a lot of banter between rival stables and jockeys about their horses. Have you been able to find someone to regularly take money off on the golf course?
I find it easier to take money off Mike de Kock on the racetrack than on the golf course – he is a ringer. The rivalry in the racing industry with regards to golf is next level. You can lose a horse race to a competitor but whatever happens, you cannot lose the Friday golf game to them.
What is the strength of your game and what is your weakness?
My strength is knowing who to team up with and my weakness is the halfway house – golf is not great for my figure.
Do you have a favourite ‘go-to’ club in the bag?
I don’t leave home without my rescue packed safely in my bag.
Have you ever trained a racehorse that has had a name connection to golf?
I recently trained a winner for Gary Player called Double Grand Slam. Others named after golf are Green Jacket, Mount Pleasant, Beer With The Boys and Green Knight, which is also owned by Gary.
By Gary Lemke
– This Q&A first appeared in the June 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.