SA’s young golf stars too comfortable

By Michael Vlismas


South Africa’s top young professional golfers are not playing nearly enough tournaments a year if they want to match the stellar careers of players such as Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.


That’s the opinion of veteran professional Nico van Rensburg, who this week is making a rare appearance on the Sunshine Tour in the Vodacom Origins of Golf, presented by Samsung, at Euphoria Golf Estate.


Van Rensburg is teeing it up in his first tournament in several years, partly as a result of the relationship between his Samsung-endorsed SmartTrainer App and the six-tournament Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour.


SmartTrainer offers the training tips and secrets of South Africa’s most successful sportsmen and women to aspiring sports stars, and is partnering with the Sunshine Tour on its single biggest series of tournaments.


But the 48-year-old Van Rensburg, a winner of six Sunshine Tour titles and three on the Asian Tour, is also preparing for the next phase of his career on the senior circuit.


Yet the man who shared cars, rooms and memories with Els and Goosen in their early playing days together in South Africa believes their like will not be seen again unless the new generation develops that same hunger for success.


“The problem is our young golfers make too much money too early and it takes away their hunger. We have a lot of really top golfers who don’t play enough. I always go back to Ernie and Retief because they were from my era but are also still some of the hardest workers in the game. You see how much Retief is playing now after his back operation. And I spend a lot of time with Ernie and I don’t see many players who practise harder than him.


“We have incredible golfers, but if you’re that young and are not playing 30 tournaments a year, there’s a problem. I doubt if they’re playing 20 at the moment. You can’t take long breaks from the game and not hit a ball. In December when Ernie is here he plays 18 holes every second day, and if he isn’t playing then he’s working out in the gym. And if you want to be an Ernie or Retief or Gary, then you have to travel and have the hunger. But the money takes away the hunger. When a 23-year-old is making R30 million a year, that’s frightening. Why would they want to do more? Ernie has more than enough money, so why is he still practising so hard? He has that hunger. Retief is the same.”


Van Rensburg is keen to see what he still needs to work on when he takes on the youngsters this week. And apart from them hitting the ball a lot further than he does, Van Rensburg says he has noticed one other difference in his time away from the Tour.


“The quality of the range balls is a lot better than what we had.”

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