Four birdies to victory

By admin
15 April 2011

Far away from the famous Augusta golf course in Georgia, America, Charl Schwartzel’s parents and younger sister sat glued to the TV set on their chicken farm outside Vereeniging that Sunday, watching with bated breath as the 18th hole steadily crept closer.

They watched as Masters champs such as Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy jockeyed for lead position while Charl was four strokes behind. For his sister, Lindi (17), the tension was so unbearable she cried nonstop from the 10th hole onwards.

Then, on the 15th hole, everything started going swimmingly for Charl. After he succeeded in doing the nearly impossible: with another three consecutive birdies and a round of 66 strokes – six under par – he caught up with the leaders and won the 75th American Masters Tournament by two strokes.

In doing so he made history and became the first player to pull off four consecutive birdies on the last four holes of the challenging Augusta course.

South Africans across the country cheered as they watched a new golfing hero pull on the sought-after green blazer and pocket the $1,44-million (about R10 million) prize money. This dramatic victory ensured him 11th position on the world rankings, three positions above his mentor, Ernie Els.

On their farm, Kruisementfontein, dad George and mom Lizette couldn’t sleep the night after Charl’s victory. That night George’s thoughts kept wandering back to Charl at four years old. He was his dad’s caddie and could already play nine holes.

“I could see this little guy had a lot of talent,” he says.

Golf is a difficult game, George explains. “That’s why I taught him not to make it even more difficult by wanting to be too technical.”

Is that his secret? “Perhaps it’s more his hard work and determination. For Charl failure was never an option.”

That’s what Piet Goss, teacher and sports head at Hoërskool Vereeniging, recalls about his famous former pupil. Charl attended school there from 1998 to 2002.

He relates an anecdote from Charl’s Grade 9 year. The school had to play cricket and rugby matches on the same day and Piet had too few cricketers. A classmate of Charl’s, current Proteas player Morné Morkel, suggested they ask him to field.

“He had never played cricket before but surprised everyone with his good catches,” Piet recalls. “When we congratulated him afterwards his only comment was he didn’t know what all the fuss was about. His achievements never went to his head.”

To what does Charl ascribe his success?

“He always said his success was thanks to his dad who coached him from his toddler days,” Piet says. But George believes it’s his reward for all the hard work he put in.

Read more about this talented young man in the issue of YOU, 21 April 2011.

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