25th June 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Van den Berg closing in on 400th start
Ulrich van den Berg is one tournament away from reaching a whopping 400 starts in his 19 years as a professional golfer on the Sunshine Tour, a milestone many can only dream of.
The 43-year-old Van den Berg turned pro in 1999 and has amassed an unprecedented 104 top-10s while falling outside the top-50 on the Order of Merit only twice. In his rookie season – the 1998-99 season – he finished 97th and in 2008, he ended the year occupying the 57th spot.
“Somebody told me in Swaziland that I was on 396 and maybe they got it wrong,” said a surprised Van den Berg. “So, I thought I would still be a couple short of 400. It has been fun. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been long, 19 years later and it’s 400 events, obviously coming up. It has had lots of ups and downs, but I met all the great people on the way. I enjoyed most of the time.”
A disciplined professional, Van den Berg has won seven times since gracing the fairways as a professional on the Sunshine Tour, however, even after such successes, his ambition to achieve more remains intact.
“From a playing perspective, I think I could have done a bit better,” he admits. “I think everyone has regrets, but most of all I’ve had a good time. I have been privileged enough to travel the world, pretty much almost every continent. I would love to win again. I would love to compete at the top level in terms of the Sunshine Tour. I would love to be able to contend in some events and see if I can win again.”
Finishing out of the top 50 on the Order of Merit only twice in two decades is testimony to the kind of competitor Van den Berg is. “I think I have been kind of a steady performer. You are always the master of your own success or demise. So, in that respect, you know you are going to take it on the chin and be able to accept that you get what you get in golf,” he said.
Van der Berg is a strong believer that taking care of one’s health as a professional athlete is one of the ingredients for success and longevity. “I’ve always tried to keep fit,” he said.
“I have always trained all my life with running and weight work. Maybe the fact that I have been able to stay fit has allowed me to keep my performance level up.”
Unfortunately for Van den Berg, though, he will not reach this milestone at the forthcoming KCB Karen Masters in Kenya as he is recovering from surgery he had last week. “I had it on Friday,” he revealed.
“I’ve been getting quite ill of late, so we probed my health and we had a CT scan done and we found a system that had grown through from the top of one of the roots to one of my molars, that had grown through my jaw to my sinus cavity and it was seriously affecting my sinus cavity. Basically, my immune system was very low and I was getting sick at the drop of a hat. In Kitwe, really, is where I really got sick and I found myself a hospital there, and suddenly you start questioning your health but thankfully my doctor sent me for the scan which revealed the problem with the sinus cavity,” he said.