In this month’s column, Andy Capostagno discusses the impact of having parents that are gifted sports people.
Wise blood. That’s what they used to say about sports people whose parents had played to a high standard. In the first week of October I thought about those words when, on the same day, Ryan Fox won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews and, across the Atlantic, Dean Burmester finished fourth in the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson.
Ryan’s father was the great Grant Fox, New Zealand’s flyhalf at the inaugural Rugby World Cup of 1987. Towards the end of his career, Grant also played for Auckland at Ellis Park in 1993, when Francois Pienaar led Transvaal to the Super 10 trophy.
I first met Grant at Heathrow Airport in 1991. His flight from Hong Kong landed an hour or so ahead of the rest of the New Zealand team and he came to the room set aside for the arrival press conference. I turned up early and found him the most approachable of men. Alone in a vast room, we had a beer together and he gave me an insider’s view of the tournament that lay ahead.
When the All Blacks arrived, their coach Alex ‘Grizz’ Wyllie, announced that his boys were very tired and that there would be no interviews. I caught Grant’s eye and he smiled broadly, happy that he had given a cub reporter an exclusive. He’s hardly changed physically since then and it was simply wonderful to see him posing proudly with his son on the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews.
Dean Burmester’s dad didn’t achieve the kind of sporting success Ryan Fox’s father did, but he has one mighty claim to fame that will never fade. In 1992 Mark Burmester took the first wicket for Zimbabwe in their first-ever Test match. It was against India on the third day at Harare Sports Club, after Zimbabwe had piled up 456 runs on the first two.
Mark had bowled nine overs without success, but a drinks break did the trick and second ball back, a wide, swinging half-volley had WV Raman caught in the slips by Andy Pycroft. He told ESPN Cricinfo, ‘The sad thing is that it was the worst ball I bowled all morning.’
The match ended in a draw and in one of those statistics which proves the effect cricket has on the weather, the second Test in Bulawayo was abandoned without a ball bowled. Nothing strange about that, you might say, except that before the match it hadn’t rained in Bulawayo for three years.
Mark Burmester was a talented all-round sportsman, a tidy flyhalf at school and Rhodes University, a provincial hockey player and, crucially, a fine golfer, with the best handicap of 1. His son is now on the launchpad to fame and fortune beyond the dreams of his parents.
Dean Burmester has the talent, the attitude and now, the PGA Tour card. Those who have watched him gradually refine his game know that the sky is the limit, but no matter what he achieves subsequently, he will never match his father’s boast of a wide, swinging half-volley that will remain in the record books as long as cricket is played.
– This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.