Kal­lis joins the Rory ‘praise brigade’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - GRANT WIN­TER

JAC­QUES Kal­lis plays golf th­ese days off an im­pres­sive one-hand­i­cap, and his best round is a su­perb four-un­der­par 68 at windswept Mil­ner­ton. Now that his glit­ter­ing Test cricket ca­reer is over, is he ready to turn pro­fes­sional and trade bound­aries for birdies?

“Not af­ter watch­ing that guy, be­cause I’d have no chance,” chuck­led the great all­rounder, re­fer­ring to Rory McIlory af­ter watch­ing the world No 2 take part in the Pro-Am yes­ter­day ahead of the R15 mil­lion BMW South African Open be­gin­ning at Glen­dower Golf Club to­mor­row. McIl­roy, here in South Africa for the first time af­ter a num­ber of years, is clearly huge news for the fans, judg­ing by the hun­dreds who got up es­pe­cially early yes­ter­day morn­ing in or­der to be present at the first tee for the North­ern Ir­ish­man’s 6.30am dawn pa­trol start of his round. “I mean, the guy’s an ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic golfer; a ma­chine,” said Kal­lis, “And I was so im­pressed to­day at the way he in­ter­acted with the fans and the young­sters. He’s a great ad­vert for the game.” Bruce Meyer and his son Ma­son had trav­elled all the way from Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal to watch the South African Open, and McIl­roy in par­tic­u­lar. “Com­ing here to watch Rory was a no-brainer. Ma­son has al­ways been a mas­sive fan and when he (Ma­son) was a teenager he took a pho­to­graph of Rory dur­ing the Mil­lion Dol­lar at Sun City.

“Ma­son brought out that old photo to­day and Rory grace­fully signed it. And gosh, can he play golf ! He hit is so far, and so ac­cu­rately to­day.”

A cou­ple of 13-year-old bud­dies be­hind the ropes with am­bi­tions of their own as pro­fes­sional golfers were also im­pressed, fig­ur­ing McIl­roy was good but maybe not so good that they couldn’t dream about beat­ing him one day. Nash de Klerk from the State Mines club is al­ready a plus-one hand­i­cap de­spite his ten­der years, and plays for Ekurhu­leni at age-group level, while Dean Wilken, hand­i­cap four at Sil­ver Lakes, is in the Gaut­eng North team.

They were both fig­ur­ing: “Yeah, this guy’s pretty sharp but – hey – maybe we’ll be like him one day”, as they watched him roll in a 30-footer for a birdie two at Glen­dower’s par-3 17th hole.

If the Ul­ster­man was an in­spi­ra­tion to the two young teenagers, so too, was he yes­ter­day for 29-yearold Lin­coln Cele, him­self a pro­fes­sional golfer who cam­paigned on the Big Easy Tour last year. Cele will en­ter the Sun­shine Tour qual­i­fy­ing school later this month, and was a vol­un­teer mar­shal for the McIl­roy group yes­ter­day. “You know, Rory hits it far but I can also hit it far,” he said. “I think the dif­fer­ence be­tween him and me is a mind­set is­sue. I just need to be­lieve in my­self more, that’s what I’ve learnt from Rory to­day.”

Irene Coun­try Club golfers Jan­ice Hog­a­rth and Tracy Re­bello, binoc­u­lars, backpack and wa­ter bot­tles in tow, walked al­most the whole 18 holes. Smil­ing, they ad­mit­ted to hav­ing “high” hand­i­caps but were be­sot­ted with the game and es­pe­cially McIl­roy. “We asked Rory if we could take a video of him, and for him to say some­thing nice to the lady mem­ber at Irene. No prob­lem, he said, and we’re ab­so­lutely thrilled. It’s al­ready on What­sApp and it’s gone vi­ral!”

Former South African am­a­teur star Barry Sun­del­son, 48, and still play­ing off scratch, watched McIl­roy with a crit­i­cal and knowl­edge­able eye: “He hits it so far, fur­ther than I ever imag­ined. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if he wins by five shots.”

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