Erik Van Rooyen writes this week's Player Blog on the transition from Challenge Tour to European Tour.
When I was playing Challenge Tour I always felt like I had the ability to compete. Playing European Tour events at home in South Africa has helped me a lot. In your mind you picture that it’s this massive change, yo know, stepping up to the next level - that it is completely different - but having played Joburg Open and SA Open and events like that in the past, it made the transition so much easier. You’re a bit more used to the crowds, the grandstands, the media attention and everything else that goes on at a bigger event, so it’s been a bit smoother than expected.
I was inspired by the success of Julian Suri and Dylan Frittelli. They are two completely different players - both excellent in their own right - and good friends of mine, so it’s great to see them succeeding on the big stage. Having said that, to witness that success also pushes you to chase that as well and at the same time it gives you the confidence that, playing with them all the time, you know you can match their levels.
My wife Rose was on the bag for about half of last season on the Challenge Tour and I pulled my own trolley for the other half. She doesn’t play golf, but she loves the game. The extent of her knowledges ends at knowing what birdies, pars, and bogeys are, so we needed a quick yardage lesson or two before she jumped on the bag. The idea behind it all was to try and conserve a bit of my energy, and by the time Oman came around she was amazing, knowing the wind direction and how far all my clubs went. We both enjoyed the experience and it’s something we’ll have for the rest of our lives. She wants me to succeed so much, we almost share the dream together of me being a professional golfer – winnings Majors and big tournaments if that is what is in store for us. That’s what makes it so great, that she wants me to succeed as much as I do, and it was really special to share those moments last year.
Not much has changed since last season in regard to my approach or my team. I’ve started working with a caddie from South Africa, Alex, and we’ve worked really well together. He’s been on the bag since Hong Kong. It is his first time on the European Tour so that’s the biggest change. In terms of preparation, it’s been the same. I was successful last year so I don’t want to change for the sake of it.
One addition to the team has been my new visual coach Dr Sherylle Calder. She’s an eye specialist who focusses on hand-eye coordination and talks about ‘getting my eyes fit’. There are exercises which I do online, that train you to read greens better and judge distances better, and overall, I’ve seen a huge improvement in these areas. It’s been just over a year of work with her, and I can say without a doubt that it’s down to her that I’ve seen the improvement in my game and me getting here on the European Tour.
Last week I had my first experience of a buzz down the stretch. If I look back at my career until this point, the biggest hurdle I’ve got to get over is being in contention on the Friday or Saturday, and then carrying that on through to the end of the week. It’s something a lot of people have to deal with and that’s the challenge of the game. All of a sudden you’re in contention, there’s a little bit of added pressure or expectation, and in my case I’m just looking forward to get the first European Tour win, which is always in the back of your mind.
Thanks for all the support this week. It was great being in contention again!! Things are starting to heat up nicely... Thanks @EuropeanTour for yet another superb event! On to the next 🇨🇳— Erik van Rooyen (@FredVR_) April 22, 2018
I qualified for The Open with my runner-up spot in Joburg, and that was so cool. It will be my first Major and I’m so excited, especially with it being at Carnoustie. I played it once at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a couple of years ago and it was my first experience with proper links golf. I just fell in love with it – it’s so different. You’ve got to be so creative and I love that. The Open Championship is the one we all want to play in and we all want to win, so it’s going to be special.
I do have these ‘wow’ moments where I sit back and realise ‘I’m on the European Tour’. The courses we play are pretty amazing. Don’t get me wrong, the Challenge Tour is great, but the conditioning on the European Tour is supreme. Every week I think to myself ‘this is it, this is really cool’.
I play guitar away from the course, and have done since I was 14. I play anything from light stuff like Jack Johnson, to hard stuff like Foo Fighters or Biffy Clyro. It’s more just playing to myself but in High School we formed a little band called Holler Barrett – it’s a long story! It was a little three-piece band and we did a talent show, it was a lot of fun. I wish I could take my guitar on tour with me but it’s too much, with the golf bag too, so I’ve just got my Ibanez electric and Taylor acoustic hanging up on my wall.