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Golf | European Tour

Kelly Slater © Gallo Images

Surfing legend Slater also a hot golfer

South Africa's amateur partner in this year's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is surfing legend Kelly Slater, who - remarkably - at age 45 is still competitive on the world tour against the sport's young stars.

The American has been world surfing champion a record 11 times, in which time he was the youngest winner at 20 and also the oldest at 39.

And, if he hadn't been riding big waves all his life, he might well have become a professional golfer - as he's almost as good with the birdies as he is with the "barrels".

"Surfing and golf are a lot different in some ways; one's super fast and the other's, like, super slow, but similar in other ways and by that I mean there's that very real fear factor in both sports - in surfing it's big-time physical and in golf it's big-time mental."

Slater's best round is a sizzling six-under-par 66, scored on a course in Hawaii. "And I've also made four of five 67s in the past few years," he reveals.

And Slater isn't only the greatest surfer the world has seen - he's also a lucky charm for the professional golfers in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

He's played twice before, in 2009 being amateur partner to England's Simon Dyson who went on to win the individual title, and then in 2015 he was paired with Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen who also ended up triumphing in the main event.

So can he make it a hat-trick with Fittelli, who this year captured his maiden European Tour title in the Lyoness Open in France? "Hopefully Dylan doesn't know my record, as I don't want to put more pressure on him!" he quipped at Carnoustie yesterday where he was making par after par.

"I got into golf by accident and as someone who watched the Open Championship on television for many years, to come here and play Open venues like St Andrews, where we were yesterday, and Carnoustie today is just incredible," said Slater who is riding in a golf cart this week as he recently broke his ankle (yes, it did happen when he was surfing).

Former Springbok flanker Rob Louw, who was in the same fourball with Slater at St Andrews on Thursday, said the surfer was incredibly competitive. "I'm a surfer too and I know how demanding it can be. In my opinion Kelly is the greatest sportsman the world has seen, and you can see that competitive side of him in his golf too."

This was evident at Carnoustie yesterday when at the par-4 third hole he left a birdie putt from 45 feet just half-an-inch inch left of the hole, his golf ball teetering on the edge of the cup. "I didn't quite get the break right there," he said, admittedly with a mischievous smile on his face.

Slater, as many surfers will know, has built his own wave pool - said to be the biggest and best in the world - at his ranch in inland California. Last month the World Surf League held a test event there for some of the planet's leading surfers and, by all accounts, it "freaked them out", such was the speed and intensity of the waves. Right now, though, Kelly's freaking out the Scottish golf fans with his super play on their famous links courses.


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