Kallis joins the Rory ‘praise brigade’
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.”