JULY 16, 2012
Ernie Els shares a laugh with Johann Rupert during the pro-am
at the Volvo Golf Champions at The Links at Fancourt in January.
African winner of a major championship?
RUPERT: George Coetzee. The kid can
flat out play.
THE POST: What is your best round?
RUPERT: A 70 at Santa Ponsa in Majorca. It was going to be a 67 until my big
buddy said to me on the last tee: You do
realise you’re 5-under par? I promptly
snapped it out of bounds.
THE POST: Why are amateur golf and
amateurs so important to you. Most
people with largesse to put on a big
golf tournament would want the best
pros, yet a considerable part of your
success has been made with the Alfred
Dunhill Links Championship, which
RUPERT: It is the only sport that aging
guys who love the competitive spirit of
sport can still play. If kids see Sam-
uel Jackson play golf or Sir Stephen
Redgrave, then they think golf is cool
and aspirational. We have to highlight
that other athletes love golf. I started a
development programme in South Af-
rica 16 years ago and we now have had
16,000 kids who have learned to play. It
is wonderful to see these kids coming
through and the talent in the town-
ships. We work with the schools. The
kids have to be tidy. No earrings, nose
studs, funny hair. Second, they have to
attend school and their marks must be
up to scratch. Their headmasters like
it because the kids are doing better at
school. It teaches them values outside
the game. Golf is a maker of friends.
thank me in his acceptance speech (at
the 2010 Open) at St Andrews but I cried
when he did. I cried when Tom Watson
didn’t win (the 2009 Open) at Turnberry.
There is nothing I would like more than
to see Ernie win again. He is too nice an
individual not to get something back.
People don’t know how hard he works at
his game. Maybe he does it at Lytham.
He blew it there in 1996. After that, he
went into the locker room and cursed
blue murder. After a while an amateur
stuck his head around the corner and
said: Can I ask you something? Ernie
said: If you fetch us two beers. The guy
got them and then asked Ernie: Do you
think I am ready for the pro game? Ernie
said he then made one of the biggest
mistakes of his career. He said yes. He
should have said no. It was Tiger Woods.
THE POST: Do you approve of all the
technological advances being made
RUPERT: I am worried about technol-
ogy. It is making courses obsolete. I
have a simple suggestion. The kids of
today are not fearful of a driver. If you
want to let them play with exactly the
same balls, then give them a maximum
height of tee peg. Then the bombers
are not going to be able to hit the drives
they do. You’ll have swingers of the
club again. Somebody said ban the tee
peg. You can’t do that but you can say
that the tee peg should be no longer
than half an inch. Suddenly you are not
going to be able to hit the ball so far
because you can’t control the trajectory.
The courses are getting ridiculously
long. I fully buy Barney Adams’ idea of
Play it Forward. We are trying to get
that going in South Africa. I was intro-
duced to the idea by a friend when we
played Shinnecock Hills. He said it is
no fun playing off the back. Let’s play
it one tee forward. For the first time
I loved Shinnecock. If I had my way, I
would ban wedges over 55 degrees. It
has taken the Seve-like skill out of the
game. Anyone can hit a lob wedge out
of knee-deep rough. Now, they have
64-degree wedges and they are going
to go 70-degree wedges. A
THE POST: How proud are you to see
South Africans like Louis Oosthuizen
and Charl Schwartzel come through?
RUPERT: People ask me why I do it? My
wife breeds race horses. She has to pay
the trainer, pay vet bills, the food. I talked her into it. I said, I’ve got the golfers.
I don’t pay their food. I don’t pay their
vet bills but I have as much fun when I
see them win. I didn’t expect Louis to
THE POST: Journalists sometimes
write that Ernie has been distracted for
years by Ben, his son, who is autistic.
Is that accurate?
RUPERT: It is very difficult to describe the whole thing because I went
through it with the family. Ernie has totally reconciled himself to the fact and
I would not say that he was distracted
because of Ben. That would be unfair
to the fantastic relationship they have.
Ben is highly intelligent. See him on an
iPad. Autistic people think differently
and they can’t verbalise it. They have
gone through some tough things and
have worked them out.
THE POST: Who will be the next South
Rupert said he cried when fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen (left) thanked him after
Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews.