It has been a weird rime in South African golf since our last issue. I’ve been bemused by the following four events: Ernie Els wins the Open 10 years after his previous major victory; a British tabloid confirms that Ernie has given up drinking alcohol; heavy snowfalls turn Gautcng courses into white wonderlands; and Huddle Park is to be reopened as a golf facility in 2013, Is the world turning upside down?
Ernie, ever since his younger days, has always been a social person who loves a drink with his mates. There are legendary stories of all-night parties at Fancourt and Herold’s Bay. But one night about a month before the Open he decided to stop drinking. When pressed for the motive, he doesn’t really offer one. «I just didn’t feel like it anymore» lie said after his victory at Royal Lytham.»I’m probably going to give it another three months.» (By the way, he did confess to pouring some claret into that jug the night after he won. If he hadn’t, there would have been a lot of disappointed Emie fans. Part of the reason we enjoy him so much is that he is one of the boys.)
Interestingly, Jack Nicklaus went on record earlier this year saying that being a teetotaler during competition gave him an edge against competitors who drank as part of the culture of his era, «As a consequence, I never lost my putting stroke/’ said Nicklaus. Did those comments resonate with Els, who has had his share of putting problems?
And Ernie also changed his routine at the Open. Normally he has his wife and kids in tow at the majors. Liezl religiously follows him around the course, making sketches of each hole and charting every shot played by her husband. But this year he sent them home to London after they had spent a week together at Skibo Castle during the Scottish Open. Feeling good about his game, he wanted to treat the Open as a working week, as it was when he was starting his career. He went to the course during the day and worked. He went to the hotel to sleep, there were no distractions.
I was in Gauteng the week before the historic snowfalls which blanketed the region, and visited Huddle Park, where a brave attempt is being made to restore this old munidpa golfing facility to how it was back in the ’70s (seepage 56). I never thought this would ever happen, and many golfers and residents of the area had resigned themselves to the property becoming a housing estate. Like Ernie’s success at Lytham? This is a significant victory for our golfing community.