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Player Blog: Erik Van Rooyen
Player Blog

Player Blog: Erik Van Rooyen

This week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car comes from Erik Van Rooyen, who should have been making his Masters debut last week but has swapped his clubs for his guitar during lockdown.

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You have to find ways to stay sharp and there are always small things we can get better at. In golf, the mental part of the game is so important, so we can stay sharp by reading books and in my case playing the guitar.

Growing up in South Africa, my Dad listened to a lot of rock – guys like Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones.  If anything pop came on the radio it was immediately turned off, so I guess that is where my rock’n’roll comes from.

As a kid, I always wanted to play guitar and got some lessons for a month but then taught myself after that. So, I am not Eddie Van Halen or any of those guys but I can play a little and it is a passion of mine.

I like to play really anything from Jack Johnson to Foo Fighters and getting into some blues – B.B. King, Buddy Guy. I am learning ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. It’s a way for me to escape and go into my own little world but also stay sharp and not get lazy in these few months.

It’s a way for me to escape and go into my own little world but also stay sharp and not get lazy in these few months.

I had a think about golfers in a band recently as bit of fun and came up with Dylan Fritelli, Ryan Fox and Andrea Pavan. Dylan plays the saxophone, Foxy plays the drums and bit of guitar and I was thinking who could be lead singer. My mum listens to a lot of opera and there are a few Italian opera singers so I thought one of the Italian golfers could step up and the first one that popped in my mind was Andrea Pavan. He sent me a message the day after I posted this laughing and saying he can’t hold pitch at all!

There were mixed feelings about not playing the Masters last week. It was good to watch the reruns and how guys tackle the course but I really missed the week. My parents would have been here from South Africa, but that said I am very much looking forward to November and hope things go ahead as planned. Mum and dad will still come over and I think it could be a nice way to end a difficult year for a lot of people as having the Masters at that time might be a bit of highlight. I don’t know what they will do with the flowers and azaleas as it will be coming into winter but maybe there will be some colour in the trees and I’m sure Augusta will come up with something.

Practicing for the par 3 was fun and has gone down really well on TikTok. My clothing sponsor, Greyson Clothier, said we had this idea and I decided to try it out. I didn’t expect that much response but people seemed to think it was very funny and it’s good to give people what they want.

I first started playing golf with my granddad. I was about seven and we would go down for Christmas to Cape Town and they had a big yard so my brother and dad would mess around with his clubs. My dad then started playing when he was 38 after a friend encouraged him to play and I remember going to the range with him. When I was ten and my brother was 13 dad bought us one set of clubs between us and my brother, as the older one, had to carry the bag. Great memories. I would hit it left and he right and we would be running across fairways. I finally got my own set of clubs on my 13th or 14th birthday. I was 14 when I played my first junior event, playing off ten in the B Division and won so I was pretty stoked. And it took off from there, playing more junior events and then I got in the provincial side and you start travelling the country. I was playing all sports and was quite a decent cricketer which was my main sport until golf took over.

When I went to college, my caddie Alex Gaugert was on the same team. Great player and smashed the ball, still does in fact.

I went home after college and played the Sunshine Tour, which was great, very competitive, and got me ready for the Challenge Tour. That in turn made me ready for the European Tour. So, I feel I have made all these little steps and while some guys skip some of these steps, I followed that route and got to the European Tour.

The turning point in my career was at the end of 2015 when I started working with my sports psychologist, Maretha Claasen. That is a really clear point for me when things started turning around and I started getting more consistency in my game. I was seeing much better results and then started working with my coach, Doug Wood, two years ago and have started getting my best results.

Those are two clear moments which have been defining in my career.

I finally got that first win in Scandinavia last year. I was playing some good golf, putting myself in contention a few times. The first time was in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2018 and I had a four-shot lead with a round to go and finished fourth. That was disappointing and left me wondering what I needed to do to get it done. Then I put myself in contention again at the Scottish Open last year where I was tied for the lead after the first hole of the final round and made an eight on the second hole. That was that, so heartbroken again and frustrated.

Then finally at the Scandinavian Invitational, I pulled it off. I shot 64 on Saturday and 64 on Sunday. I made a lot of putts on that final day and a thrilling putt on the 18th to get it done. The emotions which rush through your body are incredible – the sense of achievement, satisfaction, it was an amazing moment. The way I went about it, not getting it done so many times and then finally getting it right was quite amazing.

Erik van Rooyen

Turkey was another standout tournament later in the year. It was a week where I learnt a lot about how to plot your way around a golf course and through a tournament. You don’t have to lead from the get go on Thursday in order to win. I was never in the hunt that week until four or five holes to go. I made a few mistakes on that back nine but then made a great eagle on 18 to get into the play-off. My personality is one where you want to just fly and come out of the blocks but that is not how you win golf tournaments, and I learnt a lot that week. Of course, the play-off was not what I wanted, hitting that tee shot left into the one place you really can’t go. I was one of the first to miss out so didn’t get to play under the floodlights but speaking to Tyrrell (Hatton) afterwards he said it was quite surreal. I have always thought it would be cool to run an event under lights so maybe that is the way forward.

This season, Mexico was another big week. Looking at the pattern there is a clear path of progression and that is full credit to the team around me, and me getting more comfortable on that stage. Mexico was fantastic and shooting nine under on the Friday was incredible. I was actually three over after nine holes on the first round and shot six under on the back nine and then nine under the following day. I was tied for the lead with nine holes to play and it was fantastic. It shows I have the game to be alongside the guys at the top, I feel I am now one of the guys at the top and it was a thrill to be in that position. I would have loved to have been a couple of places better but third in a WGC is not too shabby.

As professional golfers we rarely get the chance to stay home. We bought this house in Florida in August and from then until January I spent less than a month here so it has been nice to spend some time with my wife and sleep in my own bed.

I have set up a net in the house, and have been FaceTiming with my coach, Doug Wood, who is based in Johannesburg, two or three times a week. I’ve also beenhitting balls, playing my guitar and playing video games. We are obviously limited in what we can do. I don’t have a green in my garden or house so the short game has taken a little backseat but there are still things we are working on and tweaking and trying to get them right more consistently for when we do start playing again.

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