Extraordinary people, extraordinary golf
It was the Zimbabwe Open at the Royal Harare Golf Club. The press box was an old caravan with a broken axle, which meant I faced the golf writer’s equivalent of filing a story on an uphill putt with a severe left to right break.
It was the days before wireless technology, when you still had to rely on a clear landline to file your copy. I had been struggling for several minutes to get a clear signal to file. I slammed my hands down in anger, shouting, “What a crap line”. That’s when my late colleague, the esteemed golf writer Bill McLean, added, “Maybe it’s your crap copy that just won’t go through”.
When it comes to South African golf, the world – and rightly so – focuses on the great lineage of players and world champions such a small country has consistently produced.
But in The Extraordinary Book of South African Golf, I wanted to showcase more of the people who have made the South African game what it is.
What is in this book is a bit of history, a few stats and trivia, and a lot of my own recollections on Tour.
It’s not a stats-laden history of SA golf, because numbers are never as interesting as the people behind them.
And it’s the people in South African golf that have made it the great game it is.
From the great golf writers this country has produced, to the photographers and cameramen who are known worldwide for their skill in capturing golf for print or TV, to the promoters and officials who ensure that the South African golf calendar is always vibrant and offers plenty of playing opportunities for our professionals.
And there are the many selfless people who support the game, such as the Nomads, who give of their time to manage the scoring at tournaments, providing the media with the numbers we need. And they always have a space around their travelling skottel braai for a hungry journo in need of a boerewors roll and a beer at the end of a long round.
And, of course, the book is about the pros. But not just about the names we all know. There are stories from the journeymen of South African golf.
One of my favourite memories is of a tricky situation sharing a double bed with Hennie Otto at a tournament early in his career. I had the room, Hennie needed a place to crash. Two men in a double bed can make you panic a lot more than any three-footer. Especially when the other guy is built like a prop forward.
And there are men such as André Cruse and Des Terblanche, who always have a spare fishing rod at a tournament for this golf writer.
In essence, this is a book dedicated to all those who have played their part in helping me to write and broadcast about golf over the years.
Especially to Lester Mills, my former sports editor at The Pretoria News. Lester passed away from cancer this year, and I will forever be grateful for the day he said to a young sports journalist, “Vlissie, you want your own beat? How about golf?”
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