South Africa’s Richard Sterne tells the unique story of how his grandmother, Sannie Sterne, introduced him to golf in this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
My grandmother got me into golf. She was a really good player herself, she was a self-taught scratch golfer who was the club champion at Scottburgh Golf Club on the east coast of South Africa. She bought me my first set of clubs and took me out to play for the first time when I was four years old. After going out with her that one morning I’ve stuck with it ever since, and although I played a lot of different sports while I was growing up it was always golf that I played the most. The rest of my family are very sporty but none of them play golf, so it was all thanks to my grandma why I’m here today. I can’t say that my game resembles hers in any way though, as she played left-handed!
It was during our family holidays in Natal on the south coast of South Africa where I really got into the sport and she’d show me how to play. I seemed to take to it straight away and I completed my first 18 holes when I was four – I shot 128 with a five iron and a putter. When I was younger, I would play a lot of cricket during the week – I was the captain of my primary school side – and during the weekends I would play golf. I just seemed to be much better at golf than anything else, I am the size of the ball so I couldn’t play rugby, and it just seemed a lot more natural to me than any other sport.
Coming from a sporty family really helped me get to where I am now. My father was really into his powerboating and motor racing, my mother was a national ice skating champion as a junior, and my sister was the number one squash player in South Africa. You never know what you’re going to do when you’re young, you have all these dreams of what you want to achieve in sport and how you’re going to do it, but I do feel that growing up in the environment I did gave me an edge. I’ve been playing on this Tour for 17 years now, so I feel like I have been doing this for a long time – something I hoped would happen when I was dreaming about what the future held for me all those years ago. I’ve tried to encourage my own children to play golf, like my grandmother did with me, but they just don’t listen to me!
It’s been a tough ride at times, though. I’ve managed to get into the top 50 in the world on a number of occasions, but I feel as though I’ve had quite a few setbacks. Over the years I’ve had wrist injuries, back problems, knee and hip operations too, which have come at times when I felt that I was just starting to become really competitive. Even now I’ve got a wrist injury that has been affecting me for the last 18 months or so, at the moment it’s alright, so I’m hoping that for the next phase of my career I can put this all behind me and win again, as I feel I’ve still got a good seven or eight years in me.
As you get older your goals change just as your life does. I’ve got kids now, which changes your focus a lot, but I still feel as though the best is yet to come for me. This season I got off to a great start in Abu Dhabi, but it’s been a bit more average since then as my putting hasn’t been good enough. I’m still figuring out a few things, but if I am able to iron that all out then I really think that I can be competitive again.
If you look at my record, I’ve done better in South Africa than anywhere else – there must be something about playing at home for me. I haven’t done as well as I would have liked at this golf course, though, and hopefully this week I can find something and get the putter working and turn things around. The Rolex Series has been huge for all of the players since it was introduced, and it really can be life-changing to win one of these big events. It would be extra special for me to win the only one which is played in my homeland too.