By Lali Stander
There is a hollow look in her eyes when Stacy Bregman reflects on her gaffe at the 18th green that cost her the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies title at Houghton in February.
‘It was another one of those silly mistakes I’ll be remembered for, you know,’ she says.
‘I could hear the comments in my head as I walked up to the clubhouse … “she blew it again … can you believe that stupid idiot double-bogeyed the last hole … no wonder she’s never won in Europe …” It’s always the same reaction when I’ve come close. It still hurts, but at least I get over it a lot quicker these days. Enough of that; let’s go and get some cappuccinos.’
If you find it hard to believe that the 29-year-old Bregman is in her 10th year as a professional golfer, try to imagine how the still-young, but ever-wiser South African sparkplug feels.
‘It’s funny,’ Bregman muses. ‘When I look back at my career, it feels like I was 19 just three years ago, but I’m starting my 10th season as a pro.
‘It feels like yesterday when I went to Q-School in Europe and I’ve been on the Ladies European Tour for eight years. The time has gone really quickly.’
It seems no matter how closely you keep an eye on the clock you can still lose track of time. And the sound you might hear in the company of Bregman is not Father Time ticking away, but the nagging mother hen of all: Expectation.
Runner-up finishes in Turkey and the SA Women’s Open, ties for third in the ISPS Handa British Ladies Masters and Volvik RACV Ladies Masters, and top fives in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and Deloitte Ladies Open prove Bregman has the game to compete at the top level.
When she followed a trio of victories at home with five top-five finishes on the European circuit in 2014, she finally felt she was heading into the kind of season that would produce a win.
‘I sensed a win coming more and more, but last year was just a complete let-down,’ says Bregman, who followed an LET season-best 12th Order of Merit finish in 2014 with a disappointing 37th last year.
‘Isn’t it bizarre how one player can cruise through 18 holes with one meaningless double-bogey, and another just winds up in a series of train wrecks? That was my season. I struck the ball as good as ever and I putted really well, but I just didn’t score.
‘Ultimately, you have to look at things in perspective: I kept my card and my sponsors, I made some decent money, I added more stamps to my passport, saw more parts of the world and made great friends along the way. All things considered, I am still doing what I love and I still have goals to achieve. There are far worse things to moan about.’
The best way to describe you is ‘Fire and Nice’. You’re intense as hell on the golf course, but Kate Hudson when you put your clubs away. The off-course Stacy is sharp, witty, compassionate and one of the most popular players on Tour. So what is up with the two personalities?
[laughs] I always hear that … that I turn into a different person on the golf course. I have always been very competitive since a young age. When I step on to the course, everything fades away and it’s just me, the clubs, the ball and the course. I don’t like to fail and I am extremely hard on myself. I used to get seriously steamed when things went south, but I’ve dialled it back some. I think I’ve improved with age. At least, that’s what Nicole Garcia and Melissa Eaton tell me. But I don’t think I’ll ever mellow out completely.
You got your first Dan [black belt] in karate before you even reached high school. Do you reckon that’s where the drive to win started?
I guess so. I used to be in a lift-club at school and the older kids went to karate after school. I was seven or eight at the time. I had to sit around and wait and I was bored stiff, so I asked my parents if I could join.
You were awarded SA colours seven times for karate. Why did you give it up?
I was bored. I achieved what I set out for, which was to get a black belt, and I wanted a new challenge. Hey, I guess that’s why I’m still playing golf!
When did golf enter into the picture?
I used to go to the golf course with my dad from when I was little. When I got older, he let me play with him sometimes and I was about 13 when we were playing behind this guy, who called us over and said we should join him. I had no idea he was Neville Sundleson, one of the top-ranked coaches in South Africa; I was just having fun. After the round Neville told my dad I had talent and he wanted to coach me. That’s when our partnership started and 15 years later, it’s still going strong.
This year is your 10th on tour. Highs, lows? Any stories to share?
Hey, what goes on tour, stays on tour! OK, the worst thing I was offered to eat was a cricket in Japan … a real live cricket. I love spicy food and stuff with a kick, but I draw the line at Fear Factor. In my first year on the Ladies European Tour, I had an eight-week stint in Europe and my luggage got lost on the first leg to Wales. My suitcase followed me around Europe for the full eight weeks and finally caught up with me when I got back home. Off all the places we travel to, Prague is my favourite. I love the culture, the people, the architecture and the history – it’s everywhere you turn; like living in a time bubble.
You’re off to play the Symetra Tour in the US and the goal this year to try to qualify for the 2017 LPGA Tour. What else is still on your bucket list?
I’d love to tour South America for a few months to explore the Inca Trails, like the ruins at Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rain Forrest. And I would love to go to Tibet. It’s the roof of the world and I dream of seeing the Potala Palace, the Johkhang Temple, the monasteries and least of all a little look at Mount Everest.