The day that Ernie Els lost his balls

2011-07-14 00:00

This column has dealt with the marking of your golf balls on a couple of occasions. The following is a true story:

When Ernie Els was just starting out as a professional golfer, he stood on the first tee at Durban Country Club in the South African Championships.

He hit his tee shot into a fairly strong wind, and it faded into the hedge and fence bordering the course and Leo Boyd Highway. It was probably lost or over the fence, so he hit a provisional ball. It had a similar shape and fate to the first one. He therefore hit a second provisional ball, and ditto. After that potential fifth shot, he set off with his caddy to look for his balls.

He found a ball in bounds, and acknowledged that it was his brand — it was the number that he always plays with, and it also had his personalised felt-tip pen mark. An official was close by, and he asked Ernie which ball it was. Was it his first drive, his second or his third? Ernie didn’t know. The official said: “May I advise you, that in future you should always mark your ball with a 1, 2 or 3 so that you know which ball is in play. As your balls are not marked as such, you will have to regard your third drive as the ball in play and therefore your next shot will be your sixth.” What a tough lesson for a young professional golfer. Many years later Ernie spoke about this incident on television.

So if you are playing golf and you hit your ball into the rough, how do you know for sure that the ball you have found is yours? Put your personalised mark on it, and there is no doubt. It’s hard to believe, but there are weekend golfers who still don’t mark their golf balls.

We wish Neil Schietekat the best of luck this week, at the Open Championship. He is a product of Maritzburg College ,and learned his golf at Maritzburg Golf Club. He will be assisted on the bag by his friend and fellow professional Colin Nel. There are 10 South Africans taking part this year, and the TV coverage will be extensive.

From the 19th hole:

Harry and Fred are playing their usual weekly game of golf, when Harry tells Fred that his wife has left him. He says: “Five days ago she went out to buy milk, and she didn’t come back.” Fred asks: “How are you coping?” Harry replies: “Not bad, I’ve been using that powdery stuff.”



Victoria Country Club held a four-ball betterball Stableford competition on Saturday, which was sponsored by Stedone Homes. It was won by R. Kleinhans and R. Davis on 49 points. In second place were G. Meyer and O. Hart with 45 points.

Maritzburg Golf Club played its Holmes Trophy, which is a Pinehurst Medal. The winners on a count-out were H. Stokes and B. Graham with 62,5 net. In second place were A. Grant and J. Olivier.


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