Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt’s never-say-die attitude is largely thanks to him playing competitive golf as a youngster, writes DEAN WORKMAN.
How long have you been playing golf?
About 45 years… I’m 55 now and I started when I was 10. I played a lot of competitive golf as a junior and that is probably when I had the best time.
What is your handicap?
I’m playing off four. As a junior it was lower, but my day job is quite demanding and it does keep me away from golf. The upside is that the basics and swing thoughts you were taught as a kid always stay with you.
What are some of your favourite courses in South Africa?
I was a member at Westlake for about 35 years, so that will always be one of my favourites. I’m still an honorary member there. Being based in Joburg for the past 20 years, I’ve played so many magnificent courses, it’s very difficult to choose. A few stand out. For toughness, Glendower… and I would know because I used to live on the estate. For ‘wow’ factor, definitely Leopard Creek. For sentiment and the memories, still Westlake, my old home. And for aesthetics, you’d struggle to beat Pinnacle Point.
How often do you get to play golf?
We have periods where no golf is possible and then times when you can play freely. After stepping away from the competitive side, which also requires practice, I probably get to play about twice a week.
Who would be in your dream fourball?
I always thought Jack Nicklaus was the greatest ever and his Major tally shows it. I would also have loved to play with Ben Hogan; for me his swing epitomises how you should hit a golf ball. I’ve played with Gary Player before and he is an absolute legend of a man. So I would say those three and myself, of course.
What makes Nicklaus so great?
His longevity in the game has to be admired. I know Tiger Woods is phenomenal, but he’s still short of Nicklaus’ tally. And remember how many times he came second at Majors too; his feats are just incredible.
Have you ever had a hole-in-one?
Yes, I’ve had five. My last one was in 1986, though, so you must know how much rubbish I’ve played since.
What is your biggest strength on the course?
My short-irons can be really good on the day. From a 7-iron to my putter, that’s where I know I can score. My iron play got grooved from learning my game around Westlake, which can play short in the wind.
Golf tends to bring together a lot of pros across different sports. Which sportspeople make the best golfers?
We play with the rugby guys and cricket guys quite a bit. Obviously, I also play with the guys in the football industry. Former Springbok James Small can play a bit. Neil Tovey, Mark Tovey, Mark Williams and I have a school on Thursdays at Wanderers which is good fun. A match between cricketers and footballers would be an interesting tussle.
Have you played with any members of the Bidvest team?
They all play golf, but I haven’t really played with any of them. I don’t think you really want to socialise too much with your players; not that it’s a big problem. I’ve heard some good things about Darren Keet and Simon Murray on the course.
You are quite vocal on the touchlines. Are you the same on the course?
The guys who play with me, even if we are just playing for R10, are all competitive, so we will generally have a word or two with each other. My competitiveness has been there from my early days and that was transferred to football. There’s no way I can turn it off.
A tough-tackling right back in his 13-year playing career with Hellenic, Hunt wasted little time moving into the coaching ranks. He enjoyed Nedbank Cup success with Moroka Swallows before guiding SuperSport to three consecutive PSL titles from 2008 to 2010 (he was also Coach of the Year in each of these three seasons). In 2017, he became the fourth coach in the league’s history to win four league titles when he oversaw Wits’ first championship win.