St Andrews – The 10th hole on the Old Course at St Andrews is a 353m par-4.
In light rain and with the wind blowing in their faces and the turf looking green and pristine, new South African golf star Christiaan Bezuidenhout stands on the tee with fellow professional George Coetzee, and two cricketers going by the name of Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.
This is a practice round on Tuesday ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship beginning on Thursday.
Bezuidenhout and Coetzee both hit two-iron, wedge to about six feet and make birdie.
Long-hitting Kallis uses driver and sees his ball roll closer to the green than the two pros. He pitches to about 20 feet and rolls in a right to left putt, also for a three, and he’s smiling big-time.
Man, can this guy play. Seriously, he too could be a professional golfer!
De Villiers, who can also shoot the lights out when at his best, hooks his tee-shot into a gorse bush.
“It’s my first trip to St Andrews, and my first time in Scotland (where they don’t play much cricket). This course is tricky,” says the run machine who is carrying his own clubs.
“Bez” and Kallis are partners in this little money game and are four up amidst much banter going on, delivered mainly in Afrikaans, and a bunch of birdies.
Kallis on Monday shot four-under-par 68 on the Old Course. He’s that good. Never mind all the tens of thousands of runs, he’s also made loads of birdies now that he’s in his forties and working hard on his golf.
He, like Bezuidenhout, is benefiting greatly from the teaching of South African swing guru Grant Veenstra.
It seems, as “Bez” had just testified to on the ninth, that if you need help with your game then sign up with Veenstra.
It’s almost guaranteed that fame and fortune will follow.
Okay, let’s not get too carried away but it certainly appears that way because the little 36-year-old, himself a former touring professional, is making a huge difference to the careers of his South African clients with career-changing teaching techniques – both on and off the course.
In 2018, the 25-year-old Bezuidenhout was ranked 505th in the world and making just enough money to stay afloat.
Now, this season, after a move to Veenstra, he’s posted a maiden win on the European Tour, at the Andalucia Masters, finished second twice and was third last week in the big-money BMW PGA Championship.
His earnings so far in 2019 are close to €1.35 million ,which translates to over R20 million.
Plenty of birdies these days. And business class travel!
And quiz Justin Harding, also in the hefty R20m bracket. Shortly after he linked up with Veenstra early this year he won the Qatar Masters, also a European Tour debut win for him.
And there are others, like Richard Sterne, second in this season’s Ahabi HSBC Championship soon after teaming with Veenstra and he has bagged over €1 million in 2019.
Big Neil Schietekat, who last year after signing on the dotted line, won twice on the Sunshine Tour and had his best season on that tour.
There are others, like SA amateur sensations 18-year-old Jayden Schaper and 17-year-old Caitly Macnab, as well as Kallis and KP Pietersen who is a gifted ball-striker and also visits this inspirational little man for golfing guidance.
“I just love teaching – my father taught me the fundamentals of the golf swing and I’ve been a student of the game ever since,” said Veenstra on the St Andrews practice facility on Tuesday as he checked up on Schietekat’s putting stroke.
“And in Christiaan’s case, there was some swing rebuilding and some structural changes to do but also, as most know, he had this anxiety because of the stutter he developed as a young child. We’ve worked on that too, the mental side, and how he conducts himself off the course and he’s come out of his shell amazingly well. He’s so much more confident now and it’s showed in his golf. He’s such a talent and believe me, ‘Bez’ could win a Major one day.”
Bezuidenhout, in turn, can’t say enough about his coach: “He’s not only my teacher but he’s my mentor and has also become a very good friend. I feel like my game is going through the roof and all thanks to Grant because he has had a lot to do with that.”
Schaper, of course, has, amazingly, been Nomads SA junior champion at U13, U15, U17 and U19 (strokeplay and matchplay) level, recently won the Junior Players Championship in America, and is in the Junior Presidents Cup team. Schaper is the SA men’s No 1 and Macnab the SA women’s No 1.
They too owe plenty to the fabulous swing guru that is Grant Veenstra.
The Dunhill Links begins on Thursday with 27 South African professionals chasing a share of the $ 5-million purse while a good many SA celebrities and sports people are playing in the separate pro-am.