Ernie Els remains the last South African to have won a Major with his 2012 triumph in The Open.
This week, the four South Africans of former Alfred Dunhill Championship winners Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Ockie Strydom, as well as Dean Burmester and Thriston Lawrence will attempt to break this drought in the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
Els’ own career and dedication to his game will no doubt serve as inspiration for them.
With his recent victory in the Hoag Classic on the PGA Tour Champions, Els has now won in four decades of his professional career, including four Majors.
But he’s not content to stop there and will be eyeing Major success on the senior tour as well.
For one of the favourite sons of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, playing the game to the best of his ability and winning tournaments is still his greatest passion.
You’ve been winning golf tournaments since you were 10 years old. You’re still winning golf tournaments in your 50s. Is this still your greatest passion?
“Yes. For some reason, it’s just always been there. It is my number one purpose – to perform at golf. Other things come along and you put your name to things, which takes time. Through the years it has distracted me a little bit from my real passion, and that’s when I get irritable. When people and things take my time away from actual practice and playing the game, because I still like to do that. I’ve been playing golf most of my life. It’s just been a continuation of playing and trying to achieve and playing this game as good as I can. The whole thing continues, the whole time, at different levels. I feel like I want to constantly work at it because I want to perform.”
You’ve always had a high work rate for yourself. Where does this come from?
“I think it comes from my father. He was a very diligent person when it came to his work. He still has a transport business and he worked hard and was successful. Indirectly that just flows into the rest of the family. My brother is the same and I’m the same. It’s a passion and you go after it and want to be as good as you can. Sometimes I’m not as good as I want to be, and that’s when it really increases even more – my work rate and desire to improve. When I was in my Thirties I envisioned myself as doing a bunch of other things at 50. Now I look around and I’m busy with a lot of other things, but my number one passion is still playing the game of golf.”
What is it that keeps motivating you to work as hard as you do on your game?
“You feel blessed and fortunate that you’re doing something well that you love. Seeing things go away from other people gave me a different perspective about my career. I realised early that I can’t just be lazy with it. When it goes, it’s gone. Your fear is failing, and you don’t want to go there. It pushes you to stay successful. That’s a big lesson for young people. If you ask the real successful people, they’ll probably give you the same answer. You’ve seen guys struggle and you try and stay on top because of it. Believe me, I’ve had my tough years through my 40s. There were quite a few droughts in my late 40s. And I can tell you when you win again like I did now, it’s nice to have it back.”
The Hoag Classic victory was your third on the PGA Tour Champions. Do you have more goals for this phase of your career?
“I’ve only won three times on the PGA Tour Champions. I want to get that number to where I can be proud of it. In every stage of my competitive golf career I’ve had numerous wins. I still feel I can add to my total number of victories on the PGA Tour Champions. In my prime I won quite a few tournaments each year. I remember it clearly, that feeling of how the more you win the more achievable it starts to feel. That’s the position I want to get back into again.”