Re­silient SA pros and why you can’t af­ford not to be cus­tom-fit­ted

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - News - By Barry Havenga, Deputy Ed­i­tor

Dur­ing the Spring­boks’ nervewrack­ing World Cup semi­fi­nal against the All Blacks, an ob­ser­vant cam­era­man picked out Thomas Aiken in the crowd, anx­iously fol­low­ing the ac­tion with his wife Kate be­side him.

A week ear­lier A B de Villiers posted a video on Twit­ter of the Proteas cel­e­brat­ing Fourie du Preez’s match-win­ning try against Wales from a ho­tel in In­dia the night be­fore their se­ries-de­cid­ing One Day In­ter­na­tional clash (which they won con­vinc­ingly). Pro­fes­sional South African sports­men and women are fierce pa­tri­ots and they use so­cial me­dia to of­fer sup­port and cel­e­brate suc­cess with their fel­low ath­letes.

It made me think about how pro golfers’ lives are dif­fer­ent from their com­pa­tri­ots in team sports.We watch SA golfers on TV ev­ery week on the PGA and Euro­pean tours but are sel­dom re­minded that they are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors who pay their own way – for ev­ery ex­pense in­curred – ev­ery week. And un­like rugby, cricket and soc­cer play­ers who have fixed con­tracts, if golfers have a bad week, or worse, a bad month, they don’t get paid. Our golfers travel huge dis­tances, make homes away from home and en­dure what is es­sen­tially a lonely pro­fes­sion.They don’t have the ben­e­fits of team spirit and ca­ma­raderie to fill the time away from com­pe­ti­tion.

In this month’s Think Young/Play Hard in­ter­view on page 34, Ty­rone van Aswe­gen gives insight to life on the PGA Tour. The 33-year-old spoke to us a week af­ter se­cur­ing his 2015-16 card via theWeb.Com Tour Fi­nals for the third con­sec­u­tive sea­son. Now an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen – but still a proud South African with dual cit­i­zen­ship – Van Aswe­gen had a dis­ap­point­ing year un­til the Web.Com Fi­nals, but played well enough when it mat­tered most to re­gain his card.

A week af­ter the in­ter­view, he fin­ished third at the Frys.Com Open, the first event of the new sea­son, earn­ing $312 000, al­most dou­ble what he made last sea­son. On the morn­ing of the fi­nal round in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia he was hos­pi­talised for ver­tigo and de­hy­dra­tion, but re­cov­ered in time to shoot 68 for his best ever PGA Tour fin­ish. South Africans really are a hardy bunch.

We have 10 South Africans hold­ing PGA Tour cards for 2016, the most ever. Van Aswe­gen joins Thomas Aiken, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Bran­den Grace, Louis Oosthuien, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel and Dawie van der Walt in fly­ing our flag state­side.

If you haven’t been cus­tom-fit for your equip­ment, you are miss­ing out on the eas­i­est way to im­prove your golf. A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion is that club-fit­ting is only for tour pros or bet­ter play­ers, but in this game one size does not fit all, and with sev­eral club-fit­ting ser­vices in ma­jor cen­tres around the coun­try there really isn’t an ex­cuse for you not to build a set of clubs that matches your swing and ball speed, spin rates, and putting stroke. Mas­ter club­fit­ter Steve Cot­ting­ham, the head pro­fes­sional at Mount Edge­combe in KZN sums it up best:“Tal­ented play­ers can make an ill-fit­ted set work, but the av­er­age player doesn’t do that well. It just makes the game harder.”

In com­pil­ing our eight-page fea­ture (start­ing on page 42) Ed­i­tor Stu­art McLean went through the full fit­ment process with Track­Man radar tech­nol­ogy from driver to put­ter with Srixon Sports at the World of Golf in Gaut­eng, and then watched SA’s top fe­male ama­teur, 16-year-old Ivanna Samu, go through the same rou­tine with some im­pres­sive hit­ting.

I’m guilty of lim­it­ing my im­prove­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties too. Hav­ing been cus­tom-fit for a set of irons in 2007 I naively thought they were still ‘rel­e­vant’ to­day. I tried a new set in Fe­bru­ary and was in­stantly a club longer with a 2015 model, and that was be­fore any fit­ting took place. For starters you can em­brace mod­ern (golf) tech­nol­ogy by turn­ing to page 49 where we’ve listed the best fa­cil­i­ties in SA where you can im­prove your game in an in­stant.

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