Christiaan Bezuidenhout, boldly charting a course for fame
Delmas amateur Christiaan Bezuidenhout had a great junior career, but golf aficionados wondered if the accomplished junior golfer could carry that form into the Open Amateur circuit when he turned 18. They were left wondering when Bezuidenhout played little golf in 2012. Besides a fourth place finish at the Ekurhuleni Open, thing were pretty quiet on the Bezuidenhout front. However, the Ekurhuleni golfer announced his ability to transfer from the junior ranks to the pressure of the senior circuit with massive aplomb at the Strand Golf Club in April.
Bezuidenhout first defeated the country’s number one ranked amateur Haydn Porteous for the Stroke Play title and beat NJ Arnoldi 2 & 1 in the 36-hole final for the Match Play title. With this momentous victory, Bezuidenhout became only the fifth player in the history of the Western Province Amateur Championships to complete the elusive double and categorically proved that he is ready – and able – to challenge in the major leagues.
Bezuidenhout, a member of the Ernie Els Fancourt Golf Foundation, ranks third on the current South African Golf Association’s rankings. We caught up with “Rambo” in Delmas and found out where he got his start in the game, what advice he would give juniors, what it was like rubbing shoulders with the pros on the Big Easy Tour and a few of his favourite things.
WHERE DID THE GOLF BUG FIRST BITE?
My dad played golf and I started fooling around with a five-iron and a putter when I was about four years old. We lived next to the Delmas golf course and in the afternoons, I’d go the par-five seventh and try to make up-and-downs from the 100m mark. My dad started taking me with him to the golf course when I started Grade 1. I had three coaches – my dad and his two brothers – and their critique and support really moulded me into the golfer I’ve become. My first real coach was former professional Dougie Wood, who I still see every week at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate, where I practice.
WAS GOLF ALWAYS YOUR FIRST LOVE?
I competed in a lot of sports at school: athletics, cricket, rugby and tennis, but golf was always my first sporting love. I decided to give up on all the other sports after my first term in grade eight and concentrate on golf, because I knew I wanted to make a career out of the game.
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS OF YOUR GAME?
I’d say my short game. I’m not the longest driver out there, but I can compete with most of the guys on the circuit. However, you have to have a strong short game to save shots during a round. I spent at least five to six hours a day working my short game. For me, golf is all about the short game.
DID THE WP DOUBLE COME AS A SURPRISE?
It wasn’t really a surprise, because I worked really hard on my game. After a win, a couple of top five finishes, I knew a win was around the corner. I shot an opening 74 and was just hoping for a top 10 finish, but I got some great rhythm going and won the stroke play. Then it was just a matter of keeping that rhythm going and hitting greens in regulation to give myself a chance for birdies.
WHAT MOTTOS DO YOU LIVE BY?
My dad taught me to never give up. No matter what, always try to finish your game the best you can. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase!
DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF GOLF IN SOUTH AFRICA HEALTHY?
I think South Africa has a great golfing future. The SAGA has great structures in place and there are many up-and-coming juniors in the country climbing the ranks. The SAGA gives us a lot of opportunities to grow as golfers and to fulfil our potential. Through the financial assistance of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation, players like me also get the chance to compete nationally and improve.
ANY ADVICE FOR JUNIORS?
Golf is not an easy game; it takes a lot of self-discipline. Stay focussed and determined and practice many hours a day to improve. Set yourself monthly and yearly goals. The biggest thing to remember is never to think you are bigger than the game.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SETBACKS?
In 2010, I held the lead in the SA Boys U-19 at Nelspruit Golf Club and had my first victory in sight, but with two holes to go, Brandon Stone shot a hole-in-one to win and I finished second. In 2011, I lost a play-off against Matthew Bright for the Glacier Junior Series Final and a spot in the Orange Bowl Invitational. Both times I was disappointed, but you can’t give up because of setbacks. I am very tenacious and I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. Things happen; you have accept it and move on.
TELL US ABOUT PLAYING THE BIG EASY TOUR?
It wasn’t as nerve wracking as I thought it might be; in fact it motivated me. I tied for seventh in the Big Easy event at Centurion and now I know my game is good enough to compete against the Tour players. I’m really thankful to the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation and the SAGA for giving me the exposure to test myself against the professionals.
GOALS FOR 2012
I couldn’t play a lot of golf last year, so at the start of this season, I set myself a goal of reaching the top 10 in the SAGA rankings. I also wanted to get at least one or two victories under the belt. I’m definitely someone who sets goals, so I have quite a few for the rest of the season. I’ve stepped up my gym work to improve my fitness levels, and because that will help me gain more distance on my tee shots. I’d like to win another event, maybe two before the end of the season. Long term, within the next four years, I would like to join the Sunshine Tour, establish myself on the pro circuit and work my way up from there.
CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT FACT FILE
Born – 18 May 1994 in Delmas
Resides – Delmas
Golf Club – Delmas Golf Club
School – Delmas Primary; Delmas High (grades 8, 9 and 10); Waterkloof High (grades 11 & 12)
Parents – Dad Conrad & Mom Margaret
Siblings – Sister Chane (22) and Brother Conrad (20)
Bezuidenhout alerted golf pundits to his undeniable talent when he began representing Eastern Gauteng and Ekurhuleni at Inter-Provincial level since the age of 10. He represented SA 2010 Italian U-16 Championships, the 2011 & 2012 All Africa Golf Challenge and 2012 Toyota Junior Golf World Champs.
Won the 2010 SA School Championships, member of victorious Waterkloof High School at the 2012 Retief Goosen High School Championships
Won the 2012 Ekurhuleni Closed U-23 Championship.
Named 2012 Ekurhuleni Junior Player of Year and U-23 Player of the Year
Named 2012 Waterkloof High School Golf Player of the Year and Sportsman of the Year
His 2013 highlights include victories at the Western Province Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play and the Eastern Cape & Border Stroke Play, runner-up finishes at the Free State and Northern Cape Open, Eastern Province Open and Cape Province Open and top 10 finishes at the Prince’s Grant Invitational,
North West Open and the KwaZulu-Natal Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play.
CHRIS BEZUIDENTHOUT FUN FILE
Favourite Food – Pasta, Mom’s Oxtail and Sweet Potatoes
Favourite Movie – The Hangover Part 3, Slum dog Millionaire
Music – Gospel, Afrikaans music and Pop
Actors and Actresses- Vin Diesel, Sylvester Stallone, Cameron Dias and Jennifer Anniston
Favourite Golf Player to watch – Ernie Els, for his calm and laid back approach and for what he gives back to the game through the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and Matteo Manassero, for his fight and confidence in his game!
Favourite Tournaments to watch – The four Majors, but actually, I watching everthing.
Other sports you enjoy watching – Rugby and cricket.
Major you would most like to win – The Open Championship
Biggest fear – Spiders, snakes and heights
Which actor would you pick to star in movie about your life? I’ve been called Rambo since I was in day care as a baby, so I guess it will have to be Sylvester Stallone!