A sharp-shooter on the football pitch Mark Williams, a former Bafana Bafana international, loves getting out on the course and sinking clutch putts, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
When did you start playing golf?
It was in 1996, when we were at a national camp and the coach said we could go out and do whatever we wanted. I was curious and headed out with a few of the guys and the golf bug bit.
How often do you get out on to the course?
Quite a lot. Being retired, I get a few invites to golf days and I love helping out. There are the celebrity tournaments which are great because you get to reconnect with former teammates and other sport stars. But most importantly, my Thursday school at Wanderers is not to be missed and then I love playing at my home course, Zwartkop.
Which are your favourite courses?
Gary Player Country Club is a standout – it’s difficult, for sure, but I love the challenge. And nothing is better than your local course where you know every green like the back of your hand, so teeing up at Zwartkop is always fun.
As a celebrity sportsman, do you get nervous when you’re about to tee off with a crowd watching your drive?
Golf is very different to soccer, that’s for sure. I’ve played in front of a sell-out crowd at the Maracana Stadium in Brazil with no nerves, but with 10 people watching me tee off the hands start to shake a bit. It makes you realise how good the pros are because they play in front of massive crowds and still execute the shots.
With your home course being Zwartkop, does that mean Dale Hayes has offered his advice?
He’s always giving advice – even if I don’t ask for it [laughs]. What a great man and ambassador for the game he is. Dale is always so welcoming and full of jokes, which makes it great to see him. We go a long way back and he’s the type to make you feel part of the family.
What is your strength on the course?
I’ve made my weakness my strength because I don’t like bunkers. To me they are real hazards and I avoid them with some skill. Missing them, and the self-belief that I can make putts are my two biggest assets.
Is there anything you’d like to see more of in the amateur game?
Yes, for sure. More youngsters and ladies being introduced to golf. It is such a fun game, it needs to be open to everyone.
Would your era of soccer players beat the current crop of Bafana players?
I’ve played golf with quite a lot of guys from my playing days and a few from this younger crowd. It would be a great match because I don’t think they have the mental capacity to deal with what we would bring to the course. They might even give in after a couple of holes because we know all the tricks on the park and how to concentrate on the big moments. Can we organise this match soon [laughs]?
Entrenched in the South African history books after his match-winning brace off the bench in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations final, Williams was the original fox-in-the-box striker for Bafana Bafana. Now 52, the forward’s career was a rich and storied one which took him from Jomo Cosmos to Brazil (Corinthians) via China (Guangdong Hongyuan FC) to England (Wolves), with a stop-over in Belgium (RWD Molenbeek). And that’s only the half of it, with appearances for Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows all part of his illustrious CV that now includes TV analyst. At Afcon 1996, he ended with four goals for the tournament, a feat that remains the high point of a 15-year career.