Compleat Golfer’s playing editor takes you into his world and this month touches on how a week spent with a fellow South African on the DP World Tour pushed him to a sobering conclusion.
A few weeks ago, at the Porsche European Open, I found myself coming to a frightening reality, which is … I’m no longer a ‘Young Gun’.
For the first time in a few months I found myself sharing a hotel room with someone on Tour. Introducing one Mr Wilco Nienaber. As one does, we engaged in some pillow talk as the week went on. It was after these conversations that I realised I am no longer the youngster I thought I was.
A few things made this clear. The first was my roommate’s vastly different understanding of pop culture and movie quotes. I mean, the kid had never watched Top Gun (the original), Back to the Future or any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
So, needless to say, that’s exactly what we did every evening. I sent my ‘roomie’ on a trip down memory lane for me and gave him a crash course in movie culture!
On the Friday afternoon (after the second of the four rounds) it felt as though I was looking into a mirror. Perhaps I was seeing flashbacks of only five years ago. Wilco was on the cutline after his Friday morning round so he was constantly checking the leaderboard to see whether or not the cut had moved to his score. Nowadays I don’t do that. I’ve come to accept that doing so only ages me faster, yet it was refreshing to have this sense of deja vu.
But what I enjoyed most of all were our golf chats. We shared stories from our junior and amateur days, many of which were quite similar as we’d played the same tournaments growing up, like the SA Boys, SA Amateur, KZN Amateur and Northern Amateur.
All these tournaments had played a massive role in our careers. But it was the team events that we both enjoyed the most. Not only were we privileged enough to represent South Africa, but we also played in the good ol’ Interprovincials.
It just shows how impactful amateur golf is in South Africa. It makes us who we are as golfers and sets the foundation for everything that happens after that.
It was great listening to Wilco’s perspective of life as a professional golfer, what he expected from turning pro and what he didn’t expect.
He spoke about his experiences of the similarities of the pro game to amateur golf and the differences between the two. But what I enjoyed most was listening to what he’s learned since turning pro and how he’s grown as a player and developed as a man.
Wilco is a young man way beyond his years, much like so many young golfers nowadays. And I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the young ‘Bloemfontein Bomber’, even if he did make me feel old at times. But hey, I have been out on Tour for almost 10 years now, so I am old.
– This column first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!