A dream season like this doesn’t just happen, observed Erik van Rooyen, who this year has arrived on golf’s world stage with a maiden European Tour victory, a load of top placings on leaderboards far and wide, and the equivalent of around R20 million in prize money.
The 29-year-old South African revealed during a practice round at Carnoustie on Wednesday that he always felt he had the game to succeed on tour. ‘But,’ added the man who on his Twitter account describes himself as ‘Dream Chaser, Birdie Maker’, ‘it takes a lot more than talent to really get anywhere in golf. Yes, this season has been a really good one, but it’s the culmination of five or six years of hard work and I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I kind of knew it was coming.’
Van Rooyen is exceptionally focused and credits the dedicated team around him for helping get him to where he is today. Major players in that team, he says, include sports psychologist Maretha Claassen, coach Doug Wood, fitness trainer Garth Milne, his supportive American wife Rose, and caddie Alex Gaugert who doubles as a close friend and was a teammate of his at the University of Minnesota, and who is a professional himself and has campaigned on the Sunshine Tour.
‘So making it in golf is the result of a number of things, not just talent,’ the player, who is attached to Country Club Johannesburg, said ahead of Thursday’s first round. Wood, who operates out of the Serengeti Golf Estate east of Johannesburg, says Van Rooyen – because of his dedication – is the ‘perfect professional’.
‘He’s quickly climbed up the world rankings this year to 58th and believe me he’s going to continue climbing,’ the coach added after watching the player roll in a 25-footer at the second hole.
‘His touch on the greens is amazing. But it’s not only his putting. His stats in every department are on the rise.’
Van Rooyen says he loves Carnoustie and tied for 18th in The Open here last year, although his best finish to date in a Major was a share of eighth in this year’s PGA Championship. He is currently the top South African, in seventh position, in the Race to Dubai.
Winner of the European Tour’s Scandinavian Invitation this year, Van Rooyen is at Carnoustie for Thursday’s first round, drawn with England’s two-time Dunhill Links champion Tyrrell Hatton. South Africa’s Justin Harding, who won this year’s Qatar Masters for his first European Tour victory, is at Carnoustie while Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who captured the Andalucia Masters in June, again for a breakthrough win on the main tour, is at St Andrews. Kingsbarns is the third course used in this $5m tournament.
– By Grant Winter at St Andrews for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
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